Managing multimedia pollution for a multimedia world

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Due to climate-change-induced melting of essential sea ice habitat and a lack of effective regulatory mechanisms to mitigate further losses, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now considering the polar bear for listing as a threatened species. If we could place ourselves for a moment in one potential future of the polar bear, similarly stranded in the Arctic Ocean on the last tenuous piece of ice called Ephemeral Hope, we might begin to better appreciate how important understanding and actively managing multimedia pollution may be.

To expose the inherent nature of multimedia pollution, and how we are beginning to see it and deal with it as environmental managers, we can also consider the underlying truths in the following re-stating of the great Renaissance writer John Donne’s work: “No man’s emission is an island, entire of itself; every man’s emission becomes a piece of the continent, a part of the sky, a parcel of the ocean, where any man’s pollution diminishes me, because I am involved in pollution; and therefore never send to know for whom that plume tolls; it tolls for thee.”

How “complex” and “multimedia” is the environmental management world becoming? As one measure, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a historically single-medium management paradigm, has been rapidly expanding collaborative research over the past 10 years, both among its single medium-based program offices and across key environmental management arms of the federal sector.

The ubiquitous presence of excess greenhouse gases, nitrogen, sulfur, mercury, and other persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic pollutants is the writing on the wall that we must unhesitatingly find ways to better understand and manage the multimedia world in which we live.

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