Letter published in The Amherst Bulletin
By Batya Bauman
The world is a different place than it was when we practiced many of our most cherished traditions.
We now live in a time when we have to examine the traditions that were handed down to us and with which we grew up.
We live in a time when life on Earth is threatened. Once, we never gave a second thought to what damage was done by our seemingly innocuous acts. But those times are gone.
Most of us are distraught over the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. It is frustrating that there is little or nothing we can do about it. But we can do something important to protect the environment in our own community if we are willing to give up a long-cherished tradition.
I am talking about fireworks on the 4th of July. Fireworks displays are an environmental disaster.
Do you like the pretty colors?
Well, know what is involved in creating these. Reds are from strontium and lithium. Blues release cancer-causing dioxins. White sparks? Magnesium, titanium and aluminum. Oranges and yellows: sodium chloride. Green: boric acid. Purple: rubidium and potassium. Sparkly greens: radioactive barium.
All these not only pollute the air, but leave deadly residues in the soil, on crops and in the water. All cause health problems for humans and harm to wildlife. The gunpowder itself spews into the atmosphere potassium carbonate and potassium sulphate and sulphide along with harmful levels of fine particulates which cause asthma and other respiratory problems as well as cancer.
Now, at this time, when awareness of impending planetary disaster grows ever clearer, how can we continue this incredibly destructive ritual of shooting poisons into the atmosphere to our choruses of "oohs" and "aahs?"
If life on Earth is to survive, we have to take personal responsibility and give up what is harmful to our life-sustaining environment. Foregoing the fireworks ritual is, after all, a small sacrifice, but one that would have large, significant and beneficial consequences.
Please join me in asking the town of Amherst to show respect for the Earth and for all life by becoming one of the first communities to take action against fireworks displays. Perhaps the creative people of Amherst might come up with a more sustaining alternative to celebrate the 4th of July.