Barry Commoner – Preventing Pollution

Barry Commoner Memorial Program Preventing Pollution

Music; Ambience: Traffic

JM: What does it take to clean up the environment? We asked that question in an interview with biologist and pioneer ecologist Barry Commoner in 1990, and his response still holds true. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

BC: “The main lesson in our attempt to clean up the environment is that the strategy we’ve used has failed. This strategy is to stick control devices on the systems that produce pollutants. For example, we put catalytic converters on cars. We put scrubbers on the smokestacks in power plants. That doesn’t work. What has worked, has worked in a few cases. So lead has gone down by 94 percent. The reason is very simple we stopped putting lead into the environment. Largely by taking it out of gasoline. When it was in gasoline, as we drove down the street lead was injected into the environment. Well, we’ve taken lead out of gasoline and lead goes down. In other words that tells us the only way you can deal with pollution is to prevent it. That means that you have to change the technology of production to eliminate the pollutant. Unleaded gasoline, agriculture without pesticides, cars that don’t produce smog because they operate with low-compression engines that don’t generate the nitrogen-oxide that not only triggers smog but also causes a good deal of acid rain. In other words these are all changes that will eliminate pollution by simply stopping the production of the pollutants.

JM: Scientist and environmental advocate Barry Commoner passed away in September, 2012 at the age of 95. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Barry Commoner - Preventing Pollution

Scientist Barry Commoner tells us what it will take to truly reverse pollution.
Air Date:11/16/2012
Scientist:
Transcript:

Barry Commoner Memorial Program Preventing Pollution

Music; Ambience: Traffic

JM: What does it take to clean up the environment? We asked that question in an interview with biologist and pioneer ecologist Barry Commoner in 1990, and his response still holds true. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

BC: "The main lesson in our attempt to clean up the environment is that the strategy we've used has failed. This strategy is to stick control devices on the systems that produce pollutants. For example, we put catalytic converters on cars. We put scrubbers on the smokestacks in power plants. That doesn't work. What has worked, has worked in a few cases. So lead has gone down by 94 percent. The reason is very simple we stopped putting lead into the environment. Largely by taking it out of gasoline. When it was in gasoline, as we drove down the street lead was injected into the environment. Well, we've taken lead out of gasoline and lead goes down. In other words that tells us the only way you can deal with pollution is to prevent it. That means that you have to change the technology of production to eliminate the pollutant. Unleaded gasoline, agriculture without pesticides, cars that don't produce smog because they operate with low-compression engines that don't generate the nitrogen-oxide that not only triggers smog but also causes a good deal of acid rain. In other words these are all changes that will eliminate pollution by simply stopping the production of the pollutants.

JM: Scientist and environmental advocate Barry Commoner passed away in September, 2012 at the age of 95. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.