EXCERPTS from a speech by Jean-Michel Costeau at an Earth...

Salmagundi

April 25, 1995

EXCERPTS from a speech by Jean-Michel Costeau at an Earth Day observance:

"Now it so happens that wetlands are very important to fishermen. Seventy-five percent of all commercially valuable fish depend on wetlands in some way, mostly as spawning and mostly habitat.

"In the Southeast, it's 98 percent. In fact, according to NOAA, estuaries produce more food per acre than the best Midwestern farmland.

". . .Already half of all Americans live in coastal counties, and that figure is expected to rise to 70 percent by around 2010.

"What will their lives be like in 15 years? They will have to pay more for seafood, because there will be less of it and most will have to be imported.

"They will have to pay more for pollution control and sewage treatment, because the marshes that [cleanse the] dirty water will be gone.

"They will pay for seawalls, because the estuaries that serve as the storm buffers will be gone, and they will feel the need to pay for travel, because their own coastal zone will have lost its health, its beauty, its peace.

"Today's economy is a jungle of hidden costs. The prices we pay for finished products don't reflect the real costs of repairing the damage caused by exploiting forests, range lands, fisheries and wetlands, so a normal person finds it difficult to act sustainably.

"The price of a two-by-four does not include the cost of watershed restoration. The price of a cod filet does not include disaster relief for fishermen. The price of vegetables does not include the cost of repairing aquifers poisoned by pesticides.

"The price of a kilowatt of nuclear power does not include the costs of managing wastes for 240,000 years -- the half life of plutonium.

"If prices reflect these true costs, we would find it cheaper to manage resources sustainably rather than constantly digging into our pockets to clean up after ourselves. This is common sense and honest accounting. Honesty builds trust."

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