National Geographic : 1970 Dec
like those," Dr. Cole said. "We call them trade-offs. Often the bargains are bad ones." He paused, searching for the best example. "Take the Aswan High Dam on the Nile," he said. "It was put there to expand irrigation, to generate electricity, and to control the an nual flooding of the Nile Valley. Actually, those floods had helped keep the farms pro ductive by fertilizing the land with silt. The dam has virtually ruined a sizable sardine fishery along the Nile Delta, because the nutrient supply has been choked off. The catch has fallen from 18,000 tons a year to less than 500 tons. And there's another prob lem, too: Snails are spreading through the irrigation ditches, carrying the debilitating disease schistosomiasis." If Lamont Cole seems to take too jaundiced a view of man's attempts to conquer nature, be assured that he has much company among his ecologist colleagues. Dr. Barry Commoner, Director of the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, sums up the matter in speeches on college campuses. Dr. Common er's three laws of ecology are these: (1) Every thing is connected with everything else. (2) Everything goes somewhere. (3) There is no such thing as a free lunch. Innovations Can Backfire "It's time that we scientists begin making sure we've asked all the right questions," Dr. Donald W. Aitken said to me in Palo Alto, California. Dr. Aitken is chairman of envi ronmental studies at San Jose State College. "Too many times, some technological or engineering advance is conceived and imme diately implemented, and ends up having harmful side effects," he continued. Dr. Aitken cited the Welland Canal as an example. "Lamprey eels moved into the Great Lakes through the canal and seriously dam aged sport and commercial fishing. What will happen, I wonder, if we build a sea-level canal across Central America and let predators from the Pacific and Caribbean invade each other's realms?" Marine biologists are trying to find the answers at the Smithsonian Institution's research facility in the Canal Zone.* In Washington I interviewed Dr. Lee A. DuBridge, former President of the California Institute of Technology and until recently President Nixon's Science Advisor. I brought *See "Panama, Link Between Oceans and Continents," by Jules B. Billard, GEOGRAPHIC, March 1970. 772 KODACHROMES BYJAMESP. BLAIR(ABOVE)ANDJOSEPHSTERLINGR( N.G.S. Raw sewage pours into the Hudson River from the New York town of Watervliet (whose name means "flowing water")-a scene repeated in 17 communities along the river, including New York City itself. In 1965 the state voted a billion dol lars to upgrade all sewage treatment to the second ary stage (pages 774-5); the job will take a decade. Thousands of dead carp float on the shallow Skokie Lagoons north of Chicago after last spring's thaw. Even under ice, fish survive in water that contains enough dissolved oxygen. But here federal investigators found oxygen-consuming organic wastes and dangerous amounts of arsenic, zinc, copper, lead, and nickel. Carp need less oxygen than game fish, long since gone from many waterways.