In case we needed any more evidence of the wretchedly unsustainable state of our food growing and auto use, this week the journal Science published a study on how airborne nitrogen from autos, agriculture, and power plants is worsening the pollution of alpine lakes in the Rockies and in northern Europe. Here is the Associated Press version of the story.
This isn’t a case of urban or agricultural runoff polluting nearby waters, which we’ve known about for decades. These are high-altitude lakes—places far from urban centers as well as from fertilizer-fed fields, places in, for instance, Rocky Mountain National Park. The very air that the lakes breathe has 20 times the normal levels of nitrogen, and the algae in the lakes, containing too much nitrogen and not enough phosphorus, supplies the wrong nutrients for fish.
The study was conducted by James Elser of Arizona State University along with scientists from Sweden and Norway and ASU.
We’re all related—the faraway lakes, the cities, the power plants, the mountains and rivers. Now that we know how intimately wrapped up together we are—the acts of some always affecting the whole—what will it take to turn our collective will toward changing our habits, and our politics, so that we can leave a livable planet to the generations we hope will follow?