Given that the world is cleaner than it has been for centuries there’s a certain difficulty with starting a campaign against pollution these days. We’re already down, as George Monbiot just detailed, to trying to give a shit about the rubber that comes off car tyres rather than those pea soupers which, only 70 years ago, killed people in their tens of thousands.
So, what’s a poor gal to do if she wants to scare the bejazus out of us all?
England, 2020. Every single river and lake is polluted beyond legal limits. Not one is free from toxic chemicals from industries past and present. Water companies disgorge untold volumes of raw human sewage into them, while farm fertilisers and pesticides seep insidiously into rivers, accompanied by lashings of slurry.
Blimey. And what has caused this? What is the new pollutant?
Embarrassingly for the Environment Agency, there has been no improvement in the ecological health of water bodies since the last time they were surveyed, in 2016, when just 14% of rivers made the grade. They’ve been in decline for years – in 2014 the proportion of rivers in good nick was pegged at 17%, but this dropped to 15% in 2015, and then to 14% in 2016, where it remained.
And one of her own links is to this piece of information:
Figures released by the Environment Agency show for the first time that no river has achieved good chemical status, suggesting pollution from sewage discharge, chemicals and agriculture are having a huge impact on river quality. In 2016, 97% of rivers were judged to have good chemical status, though the standard of tests used this time was tougher.
Ah, we’ve changed the standard we used to decide whether to call something “pollution”. So, more places are called polluted.
Which is how, in a world ever less polluted, you run a scare campaign about pollution.