May 6, 1971
Mr. Tom Cole
2015 Sierra Vista
Tempe, Arizona 85281
Dear Mr. Cole:
The point of my editorials, which you seem to have missed, is that energies spent being active about hysterical pollution and political pollution is diverted from the areas of actual pollution----with the result that those things that need doing won't get done.
Also, the current ecological fad is strictly a fad, and about as realistic as Little Orphan Annie or Goldilocks.
If you thin we can add three billion large omnivorous animals to a world ecosystem that was previously fairly well balanced without subtracting something else somewhere, you believe in Magic Wands and Fairy Godmothers.
Either kill off about 2.8 billion of those large omnivorous animals, or expect to see a lot of other animals and species exterminated; something's to to give! And it won't be the Laws of Nature. The Universe is perfectly fair, but it's totally indifferent. It has no sentimental attachment to either Brown Pelicans or homo sapiens----but there isn't room for those billions of h. sap. without throwing out something else.
That's the simple fundamental of the ecological problem.
Item: If all oxygen production form phyotoplankton stopped now, it would take a couple of generations to reduce the oxygen content of the atmosphere to an uncomfortable degree. The tonnage is rather stupendous.
Item: If all but one individual plankton cell were wiped out, and only that one poison-resistant cell remained in all the oceans, let's consider what would happen.
First, it would be freed of the pressure of competition. And if we assume it has the low reproduction rate of one fission every 24 hours, how many cells would be produced in one years? In 365 days, there will be 2365 cells, if all survive to reproduce. Now 2365 is roughly log2 x 365 = .301 x 365 = 99.5 Then there would be 1099 cells---if it weren't limited by the fact that there are only about 1072 particles in the total Universe! That's neutrons, protons, electrons, etc. in all the stars, planets, gas-dust etc. in all the galaxies in the cosmos.
Conclusion: I'm not deeply concerned about having all the phytoplankton poisoned off.
Look how quickly various germs bred up penicillin-resistant strains! And how rapidly DDT-immune flies and mosquitoes began appearing!
A magnificent example of hysterical pollution has to do with leaded gasoline.
They were oh-so-concerned about the lead (but refused to consider giving up their beloved gasoline burning monsters) that they came out with low-lead gas.
To make modern engines work on low-lead gas they had to put the more expensive aromatic hydrocarbons in the gas----as much as 50% benzene-ring molecules.
Now without happy lead-free gasoline, the partly oxidized hydrocarbons belched out are no longer alcohols, acids and ketones----they're complex aromatics. Among them are a variety of the most intensely carcinogenic compounds known to medicine.
See----we solved that lead pollution problem! We hurried and pushed, and we made them give us low lead gasoline fast! That's getting things done!
So fast there was no time to study the other consequences.
Have a little cancer (which can't be cured) instead of lead poisoning (which is readily treated with a chelating agent.)
John W. Campbell