Sign Pollution

This week I was on the road in Ohio. It was a week of gray, rainy weather, so my mood wasn’t great. Still, I was struck by how ugly our state looks from the perspective of our interstates, due in significant part to the overabundance of signs that line the highways.

IMG_1891We’ve got a sign pollution problem. Speed limit signs and traffic alert signs. Signs stating that you need to wear your seat belt because it’s a state law. Signs unnecessarily announcing “caution overhead hazard” when there is a bridge looming immediately ahead. Signs advising that fines are doubled in work zones, mile markers, “no edge lines” signs, exit signs, rest area signs, “emergency stopping only” signs, signs listing every fast food outlet, gas station, and hotel at the exit that is approaching, signs warning that bridges ice over before roadways, merge markers, and electronic billboards about missing adults, among countless others.

Ohio may not have the striking scenic beauty of, say, the Grand Tetons or the coastline at Big Sur, but the rolling farmland is pleasant — if you could see it without all of the ugly, institutional signs that seemingly appear every 100 yards or so. (And don’t even get into how much those signs cost.)

When I was a kid, First Lady Lady Bird Johnson launched an “America the Beautiful” campaign that sought to minimize the number of billboards on highways and their ability to block the view of the countryside. There also was a powerful commercial featuring “Iron Eyes” Cody as a proud native American who sheds a tear at the trash thrown from a passing car, which made me into a lifelong opponent of littering. Ironic that now it’s our government, with its zeal to post signs for every conceivable reason, that is the offender.

The Birds Of Midway Island

Watching the video above will take about four minutes.  They will be a poignant and powerful four minutes, and after they are over you will never think of littering in the same way.  More information about the filmmakers, and their latest trailer about their film Midway, are available here and here and here.

Thoughtless actions can have tragic consequences.

Space Littering

There is so much junk orbiting Earth that it poses hazards to navigation in space, according to a study by the National Research Council.

The U.S. Space Surveillance Network tracks more than 16,000 pieces of debris orbiting the Earth.  The junk includes spent rocket bodies, unused satellites, and other discarded materials — all of which are circling the globe at speeds of more than 17,000 miles per hour.  A lot of the debris was generated when the Chinese government unwisely used a discarded weather satellite as a target for an anti-satellite missile test. There already have been space collisions, and experts fear that the amount of junk will cause even more crashes and damage to vehicles exiting and entering Earth’s atmosphere.

Imagine — there were no man-made objects in Earth orbit until the Russians launched Sputnik in the late 1950s, and only five decades later we have reached a “tipping point” of space debris.  Human beings apparently are just inveterate litterbugs, no matter where they go.  Where is Iron Eyes Cody when we really need him?