The Other Side on Cleaning the Bay

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I forget the specific issue, but some years ago, out of frustration at the one-sided nature of his reporting, I contacted the Providence Journal environment reporter to say I’d be happy to voice the other side if he ever felt inclined to include it.  I think it was Alex Kuffner, but it might have been his predecessor.  Whoever it was, the reply was that he didn’t believe there really was another side.

That exchange came to mind when I read Kuffner’s article about fishermen who aren’t happy that we’ve cleaned Narragansett Bay so thoroughly:

Lanny Dellinger, board member of the Rhode Island Lobstermen’s Association, put the blame on a tightening of restrictions on wastewater treatment plants after the historic Greenwich Bay.

We think of waste as waste, of course, but there’s a reason we put manure in soil to fertilize it.  We do live in an ecosystem, in which creatures tend to have complementary roles.

The article does a good job highlighting the reality that, over time, different forms of life thrive and fade out.  Some human modification or natural event changes the immediate environment, and the balance of life changes.  People have to adapt, both in their diets and their industries.

Click to help us keep the doors open.

Sometimes we adopt a hubris that hides that fact:

There are larger questions in play, said Janet Coit, director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

“Given the complexity of everything that’s going on, what are we trying to get to?” she asked.

What’s the right level of nutrients in Narragansett Bay?

“Right” by whose lights?  In some ways, environmentalists are just reactionaries.  The thing that they value in the status quo (or the past) must be preserved or even enhanced without regard to some unseen cost.

There shouldn’t be something that we’re “trying to get to” as a permanent condition.  We should set some controls for outright pollution guidelines for resolving differences and then let life happen.



  • Rhett Hardwick

    Just a historical note. In the 1880’s and 90’s “oyster bars” were more common than McDonalds. Finally, we “fished out” oysters. We survived. I haven’t taken the underground route to Grand Central in quite a few years, the last remaining Oyster Bar was there.

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