In America, we grew up with a dream at heart and we were told if we work hard that dream will always be attainable. Within the past decade in the United States our dreams have become blurred, and simply maintaining a basic hassle free lifestyle has become the hardest struggle of all. With each year the citizens of the good ol’ US of A have faced increasing hardships that make you wonder if life in the land of the free is still all that it is cracked up to be.
Environmental concerns are at the core to many detrimental factors which endanger and may in-turn shorten our lives in the United States. They engulf more than the soil and dirt in which we tend to think about when we here the word “environmental concerns”. A large factor in the dwindling aspects of the environmental is the air quality in which we are surrounded by. According to the American Lung Association which releases annual reports on air pollution, it was discovered that sixty percent of all Americans live in areas with densely polluted air that can endanger their lives. Cities all across the United States get a rating which determines the quality of air within those city limits. Recently the United States has become more open minded to the fact that we are negatively contributing to the environmental factors which are not only harming us but the rest of the environment too. A prime example which contributes pollution into the air are factories (mainly coal-burning power-plants) which constantly pump out byproducts directly into the air with little to no immediate consequences to them.
Due to the Clean Air Act which is federal law designed to make sure that no matter where you are in the United States you will be breathing in safe air. The law was passed in 1970; our awareness for this issue has drastically increased and since then our air quality has improved. The Clean Air Act is a federal government enforced regulation that is in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which sets minimum limits as to how much pollution is allowed to be in the air. Every state has the freedom to set their minimum pollution regulations higher, but are not able to lower the standard that the EPA has set.
Not only is the pollution bad for our lungs and also for the greater humanity, plants and animals that once flourished in the United States, but it is also dangerous to our water cycle as well. Acid Rain is a term used for excess amounts of nitric and sulfuric acids in the atmosphere that attach to rain, fog, or snow when the winds push them to wet conditions. This changes how acidic our water is, changes the composition in plants and natural vegetation, and often harms and kills off much of the wildlife. The dry form of acid rain, also known as dry deposition, mixes with dust and smoke. The dry deposition sticks to surfaces which turns into run-off once it rains. This run-off is now more acidic than before due to the acid in the rain mixing with the acids in the dry deposition.
Acid rain is not to be overlooked. It’s side effects on human health are huge. According to a online journal through ThinkQuest, acid rain is responsible for 550 premature deaths, 1,520 emergency room visits and 210,070 asthma symptom days yearly in the United States and Canada alone. Acid rain isn’t the only factor which causes health concerns, pollutants as a whole opens up an entirely new perspective on disease in the United States. According to Environmental Health Perspectives’ article on Environmental Factors in Birth Defects: What We Need to Know, suggests that up to seventy percent of birth defect causes are still unknown, and leave room to question weather environmental factors play a leading role in this. Childbearing mothers are at risk on a daily basis, unbeknownst to them. “Among other environmental exposures with some incriminating evidence are other nutrient imbalances, maternal smoking and alcohol use, pesticides, tap water disinfection by-products, plastics and plastics components, solvents, metals, and numerous air pollutants” (Weinhold).
It is never a black or white situation when tying environmental factors to birth defects, or any other health concerns for that matter. You have to become comfortable researching in the gray area because so many of the environmental factors in relationship to health are misunderstood. “Of all the antecedents of birth defects, environmental factors are least well understood. This is inevitable inasmuch as there are few isolated influences. In most situations the environment imposes an avalanche of possible stimuli, some beneficial, many neutral, and others possibly harmful. Add to this the possibility that interactions between two such factors-or more likely among many-may result in different effects, and you have an inkling of the complexity of the problem.” (Katz).
Cancers as well have been on the rise in the United States. Past stories such as Love Canal in New York and Cancer Alley in Louisiana make you believe there is no such thing as coincidence. The story of Love Canal is devastating and an eye opener for skeptics who do not believe disease and environmental pollutants share a common link. Love Canal was a neighborhood located in Niagara Falls, New York. At the time a the school board was looking for land in which they could build a school house, parks and neighboring community to adhere to the demands of the ever-growing population at that time. Meanwhile, Hooker Electrochemical Company, a company which collected toxic wastes from others for a fee was supposed to properly dispose of the toxic wastes by the regulations of the EPA. Hooker, however, took the easy way out and dumped the wastes into a near by canal which soon drained and turned into a thick chemically sludge. The dumpsite dumped twenty-one thousand chemicals into the canal in total before burying it between the depths of two to twenty-five feet. The company proceeded to purchase the canal and the banks located on both sides of the canal. They covered it up which allowed vegetation to grow on top. The school board stumbled upon this land in which they bought for one dollar. A school house was built, including a kindergarten play ground which was located directly onto of the dumpsite. Reporter Michael Brown held door-to-door surveys in Love Canal as he investigate potential health effects in such region. What he found was appalling. The neighborhood was surrounded by victims which suffered health issues as minor as daily nose bleeds to miscarriages and birth defects. Some of the birth defects included being born deaf, cleft palate, having an extra row of teeth, and retardation. Cancers were also reported as well as an outbreak of nervous disorders. Traces of toxic matters were also present in the breast milk of nursing mothers.
Cancer Alley as well as Love Canal is a shocking case. Cancer Alley is located between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana. Over three hundred industries (seven of them being oil refineries and one hundred and seventy five of them being heavy industrial plants) occupy this stretch of land as well as neighboring communities. Cancer Alley was granted it’s name due to twenty-two people that became victims of cancer in just a total of three blocks near by the industrial factories. Many other homeowners living in neighboring blocks reported health concerns as well. According to BBC’s news journal on Cancer Alley, Louisiana, a profound three cases of Rhabdomyosarcoma was reported within a fourteen month period. This is an extremely rare form of cancer which is mainly found in children. A estimated one child out of every one million is diagnosed with this type of cancer.
Another health concern is stress, The American Psychological Association asked 1,800 people to rate their stress in their lives, half of those admitted their stress has increased to unmanageable levels. Can the stress levels be blamed on the pressures put on us due to the economy? In 200, writer for the Washington Post, Steven Pearlstein, titled his column “The Takeover Boom, About to Go Bust”. Pearlstein explains, “It is impossible to predict when the magic moment will be reached and everyone finally realizes that the prices being paid for these companies, and the debt taken on to support the acquisitions, are unsustainable. When that happens, it won’t be pretty. Across the board, stock prices and company valuations will fall. Banks will announce painful write-offs, some hedge funds will close their doors, and private-equity funds will report disappointing returns. Some companies will be forced into bankruptcy or restructuring.” He continued to explain the effects of what this means. He stated how due to falling stock prices, companies will have to reduce their hiring and in addition to that, governments will be forced to raise taxes or reduce services. There was no pretty ending for this story. All of this meant that reduced wealth and higher interest rates was going to cause for a drastic debit induced era. This caused bankruptcy across the nation in conjunction with a copious amount of people being let go from their jobs. According to Seeking Alpha: Jobs Situation Getting Worse for Full-Time workers, currently the full-time unemployment levels have reached 11.1 percent which leaves about 13,901,000 full-time employees jobless. The United States unemployment levels have reached 9.4 percent which is the new time record since 1883.
“Between the $787 billion stimulus package and a record $3.5 trillion budget deficit, Obama and his administration are pumping so much liquidity and demand into the U.S. economy that, according to the mainstream economic consensus, some kind of revival has to come. But so far, instead, the great flood tide of job losses is continuing, and business confidence has flat-lined” (Sieff). The crisis within the economy, in fact, isn’t all about the employment rates increasing. Many people who were fortunate enough to keep their jobs suffered hour cuts, often from full-time to part-time positions. “The unemployment rate is giving you a misleading impression of some of the adjustments that are taking place. Hours cut is a big deal. People still have a job, but they are losing income.” (Lambert). From a business stand point, it financially and economically makes more sense to hire two part time employees than one full time, this way they are not obligated to pay for benefits. “More part-time and fewer full-time workers also allows companies to save on health care costs. Only 16 percent of retail workers receive health insurance through their employer, while more than half of full-time workers are covered” (Lambert). Those cut to part-time jobs are forced to look for a second part time job elsewhere. Unfortunately there are so many unemployed or partly employed people but not enough jobs for everyone. Since 2001 a common trend of shipping jobs overseas has become overtly common in today’s society. “Are you wondering how to safeguard yourself? It’s not very promising, but here’s the scoop. All manufacturing careers are going overseas. It’s as simple and as appalling as that.” (Sherry). According to the article Out Sourcing America: Job Loss and Unemployment, fifteen million white collar jobs have left the United States (in 2001) in search for cheaper work and labor overseas. It is less of a financial burden to hire workers overseas who work for pennies, than to hire a worker in the United States which not only demand a higher salary, but benefits, interference of unions, and 401K’s. There is more of a freedom when hire overseas. “We’ve got one company that’s closing a support facility here to move it to Asia , and another that doesn’t even try to fill jobs at home. There’s something vaguely unpatriotic about all this. Especially when the jobs are answering the phone to talk to American customers or developing programs to be sold primarily to American companies.” (American Executive).
Jobs overseas seems to become a ‘catch 22’ in this current state of crisis. “From a U.S.A. economy standpoint, I think that it is outrageous that we have allowed the wholesale exit of ‘Made in U.S.A.’ manufacturing. I could go on and on about the loss of good paying jobs, the effect on the middle class and a multitude of other issues that the loss of U.S.A. manufacturing jobs has caused.” (Home Channel News). Jobs which are shipped overseas are making products which are being sold in the United States for a cheaper rate. This is at a convenience to Americans who can no longer afford quality goods. We are supporting the manufacturing overseas by buying those products; attempting to afford products make in the USA is a financial burden to the average Joe. “Today, many two-income families are a paycheck away from losing their middle-class status and, in some cases, their homes” (Smith). Without supporting the products that are currently made in the USA, how can we expect companies to stay here? Consequently, if the companies have no support, they will no longer be able to support their labor fees and will be forced to move overseas where production is affordable. It would be ideal for America as a whole to only support goods produced and manufactured in the States, but as a whole, that would be impossible. “If we are ever to survive as a nation, and not this watered down version we are becoming, the words ‘Made in America’ should be our battle cry. It should have influence over every purchase we make. Whenever possible, if we pick up an item and it says anything other than that, then we should put it down.” (Jim Thoel). For those who have the extra money in their budget to splurge on made in the USA products, they should, for multiple reasons. The only way we can get our country back on it’s own two feet is too support it. “I will gladly pay a premium on products ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ over products made overseas and for several reasons. Environment, quality and reliability are reason enough, but the big one for me is jobs. I would rather see jobs in the U.S. lost to automation and innovation rather than lower wages from a foreign country.” (Mike Denny). By buying products made here, the factories will have enough stability to eventually hire people to work within their factory, thus providing a job market. If products and jobs are continued to be shipped out we are preventing the financial support this country needs in order to rebuild itself.
Life in the United States is becoming a difficult struggle. The once profound idea of the American Dream is no longer in site, let alone attainable. In today’s America be prepared to struggle, work hard and maybe work two jobs if you’re lucky, because nowadays having two part time jobs is a blessing compared to those who can’t find work at all. We may still be considered a rich nation, but by no means are the majority of the citizens living in this nation rich. Between the environmental concerns which are slowly deteriorating our resources and diminishing our health, the stress factors due to the economic struggle, and the loss of jobs and hardships endured by the American people daily, life in the United States is getting worse.
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