Today I had a chance encounter with a Reader's Digest article about the top cleanest (and dirtiest) cities in America (it's in the July 2005 issue). Surveying the 50 largest metropolitan areas in our nation, the article listed the top 10 cleanest cities as well as the dirtiest 10. Each city was rated by air and water quality, sanitation, industrial pollution, and Superfund sites (toxic waste sites- I had to look it up). For my Ohio friends: Columbus was in the top 5 cleanest. For the Texans: Austin is number 8 (it looks like "keeping Austin weird" is a good option at least in this regard!).
Like any loyal Atlanta girl, I carefully scanned both the cleanest and dirtiest lists, but "my city" wasn't listed on either. Naturally, I would have loved to discover yet another reason to boast about my hometown, so I was disappointed not to find Atlanta among the cleanest (but I'm certainly not surprised!). Still, I could take pride in the fact that it was not among the "lower ten" names. Then I found a link to view the analysis of all 50 largest metropolitan areas. (If your curiosity gets the better of you, too, click here to see how your favorite big city measures up.)
Well, it appears that my initial pride was a little misplaced - Atlanta, GA is the 11th dirtiest large city in the nation (Houston was worse, preventing Atlanta from appearing in that infamous list). Okay, I knew we were in bad shape, but I didn't know it was this bad. Apparently, the Phoenix hasn't quite risen from the ashes. Or maybe it's better to say that we continue to wallow in ashes of our own design (in oh so many ways).
Why is it that I am so indifferent, and even condescending, when I read the names of other filthy cities, but I'm so shocked to see my own in black and white? As long as there were other cities out there "dirtier" than my own, I was content. Maybe I feel like a judgment on my hometown is by extension a judgment on me, too; after all, this is a place that has shaped me significantly.
Above all this article makes me want to make a difference in the condition of the environment wherever I'm living. I wonder, how can I be a small part of maintaining the beauty of this world God created as our home? I also wonder, what keeps me from being involved in efforts to protect the environment on a regular basis?