Dumping out of sight

Jeff Bezos wants to move our pollution problems to space.

“We need to take all heavy industry, all polluting industry, and move it into space,” the Amazon magnate said.

He made the comment to MSNBC business reporter Stephanie Rhule shortly after he returned from his brief ride into the area above the thin blanket we call our atmosphere..

Which put me in mind of one of the better television series of the past few years. “Yellowstone,” depicts the fictional multi-generational life of the Dutton family as it tries to hang onto its 50,000-acre Wyoming cattle ranch against the efforts of developers.

One of the stand-out scenes involves a group of bikers who cut a fence and built a bonfire in the pasture. Later in the evening, Patriarch John Dutton (Kevin Costner) asked the leader of the pack what he would do if the Dutton crew had trashed the bikers’ property.

“I guess I’d have to kill you,” the head biker said.

I often wander the forests and creeks near home and too often run across peoples’ garbage – empty fast food containers along the highways, mattresses and televisions at the gates to access roads in Michaux State Forest, water bottles and beer and soda cans along and in the creeks. And I wonder how the people who left that trash would react if it could be collected and dumped at their front doors.

We have many environmental problems around our planet, most of which – through ignorance or design – can be credited to dumping our trash anywhere out of sight.

For centuries, we thought our planet’s resources were infinite. Gifford Pinchot, two-time governor of Pennsylvania and first head of the U.S. Forest Service, was told studying forest conservation was a waste of time; trees would grow back where they had been cut for lumber.

Gifford’s father, who made his money cutting trees, discovered that was not true and told his son to learn to conserve the forest.

Now comes the richest man in the world – a philanthropist who has put millions of dollars into environmental issues. He looks at our home and sees that it is not infinite, and he looks at space  – and thinks that is where to put our effluent.

“You can’t imagine how thin the atmosphere is when you see it from space,” Bezos said. “We live in it, and it looks so big—it feels like this atmosphere is huge and we can disregard it and treat it poorly.”

But once one views our atmosphere from space, “you see how tiny it is and how fragile it is,” he declared.

“We need to take all heavy industry, all polluting industry, and move it into space. And keep Earth as this beautiful gem of a planet that it is,” Bezos said.

Outside my window, the moon is orange from smoke reportedly being blown over my eastern home from wildfires in western Canada. A town in British Columbia, far north of any normal expectations of desert heat, has experienced this year temperatures nearly twice what it should have been for the time of year.

In the morning, from my pillow I see rain coming; a closer look reveals smoke-filled skies dimming the sun.

Wildfires are normal in California, but the largest fire so far this year is burning in Oregon, where people do not have air conditioners because, normally, they do not need them.

What will happen to pollution we expel into space? Will it gather around our planet the way gases have gathered to form this galactic pebble on which we live? The answer is not to dump our waste in someone else’s yard. The answer is to stop making it.

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