Freshwater Responsibilities in a Survival Mode

The outlook toward our responsibilities to humankind changed abruptly following the tragedies of 11 September. Such barbaric, deranged actions remain nearly incomprehensible among all civilized persons. The sick hatred, harms way, and death that surfaced so poignantly continue to be inflicted globally. These actions induce fear, irrational behavior, and many ancillary repercussions, particularly economic chaos and redirections, and will affect the standards of civilized humanity for generations. And it is now apparent that such terrorism will not be restricted to western countries but extends to all peoples and venues worldwide.

One can ask then, what are our responsibilities as limnologists during such times? Can we effectively use our expertise to counter the utterly irresponsible actions of a few deranged individuals to maim and kill those that hold philosophies different from theirs? Simply and emphatically, yes. The survival instinct in us immediately enjoins defensive reactions to dangers. In addition to defensive measures, however, aggressive offensive measures are also needed to offset as much as possible the destructive efficacy of planned or inflicted hazardous chemicals or microbes.

Obviously contamination of surface waters, ground waters, and water supplies can occur by introduced chemical and microbiological agents. It is imperative that our extensive chemical and microbial expertise be employed in collaboration with public health, medical, toxicological, and engineering personnel. Our collective massive understanding and experience of natural hydrological, chemical, and microbial dynamics should be of significant assistance in evaluating the reactivities, distribution, growth, and longevity of alien substances and organisms in surface and ground waters. Intensified new experimentation, methods development, design of protection and response measures for public health, and development and application of models – all are needed. These results coupled to our extensive experience in combating and resolving inadvertent pollution by chemical and microbial contamination provide a plethora of tools in our resolve to minimize effects of terrorism on human water supplies.

History is replete with examples of past manic power struggles under the false guise of religion and related fanatical viewpoints. Poisoning of water supplies to inflict human harm and misery also has a long history. The means to maim and kill by contamination of water supplies and distribution systems, however, have improved markedly in modern times. It is essential that we employ every possible means of prevention, diversion, neutralization, and destruction to any chemical and microbiological agents dispersed in our environments.

We have a responsibility to assist in confronting these new limnological challenges until the unacceptable behavior can be expunged from any reasonable civilized world. The call to become seriously involved and to assist in these applied problems has never been greater. Let us use this hideous potential for new pollution problems as an opportunity to attack all pollution problems at any level with much greater resolve than previously.

Robert G. Wetzel >>>
General Secretary and Treasurer