Notes: Failure to "clean up" our own messes -- often unintended consequences of good ideas -- can have huge impacts.
For example, as noted by Richard Alley in Earth: The Operator's Manual, in the early 1800's, when indoor toilets were widely introduced in London, the increased water flow into basement cesspools caused overflowing and leaking into the nearby wells. The result: severe, periodic cholera epidemics, often killing 10's of thousands of Londoners in several days. Yet even after Dr. John Snow demonstrated conclusively that sewage contamination of water wells was causing the cholera outbreaks, Parliament stalled for years before starting to build a sewer system. Why? It seemed too expensive at the time.
What finally persuaded Parliament to allocate the funds was cholera, which afflicted mostly poor children, but the "Great Stink" of 1854 when the sewage-filled Thames River backed-up, giving off such a powerful stench that citizens had to cover their mouths with handkerchiefs and Parliament itself was forced to close.
The London sewer system was finally completed in 1870, ending the stench and also ending epidemic cholera.
Alley calculates that the cost of building the London sewage, relative to the total British economy at the time, was comparable to the cost today of mitigating U.S. carbon emissions.
In All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarden, Robert Fulghum presents 13 lessons:
* Share everything. * Play fair. * Don't hit people. * Put things back where you found them. * Don't take things that aren't yours. * Clean up your own mess. * Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody. * Wash your hands before you eat. * Flush. * Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. * Live a balanced life * Take a nap every afternoon. * When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together...