8. "Acid Rain and Ecological Disaster"
Acid rain, caused predominantly by oil and coal burning, smelting,
and car exhaust, has been falling throughout most parts of the east
coast of the U.S. The acidity of the rain contaminates the soils, damages
crops, stunts the growth of trees by possibly more than 10 percent,
lowers the pH of even the most remote high altitude lakes, thus wiping
out entire native fish species and causes other potentially disastrous
Today in over 50 percent of all the Adirondack lakes, about 2,000 feet
in elevation -- the ones most remote from civilization -- all the fish
have died. Lakes that have been famous for trout for the last century
now cannot even support minnows.
Biologists at Cornell University have found that rain and snow throughout
the eastern U.S. presently falls with 100 times more acidity than it
did a generation ago. Further studies indicate that in most areas the
soil quickly neutralizes the acid. But in thin, sandy soils, such as
those found in high mountainous areas, the acid precipitation runs off,
unchanged, into the lakes. The "unbuffered" rain of the 1970's
is acidic enough to kill off most freshwater fish east of the Mississippi.
In the Adirondacks, most of the water is too acidic to allow fish to
The problem is wide-ranging because of the nature of rain. The pollution
that causes the acidity (sulfuric and nitric acid) can originate thousands
of miles from where the rain finally falls. The closest thing to point
source-crackdown would have to occur at the electrical generating plants
and industrial sites of Detroit, Chicago, and southern Ontario. Yet
the opposition to air cleanup by these plants has been fierce.
Norway and Sweden are already experiencing a full-blown ecological
crisis due to acid rain, polluted by industrialized Europe. Salmon fisheries
in thousands of lakes and streams have been wiped out and millions of
salmon have been killed.
The world-wide and intensive damaging effects of acid rain, and this
issue's scanty coverage, nominate this story for one of the "Best
Censored Stories of 1977."
"Look What They've Done to the Rain," by Alan MacRobert,
Mother Jones magazine, December, 1977, pp. 65-67.
"News Briefs," Not Man Apart, Mid-September, 1977, p. 9.