Whose Fault is it that Your Neighbor Knows Nothing About Finishing?

Pollution was the topic in my son's physical science class recently.

Pollution was the topic in my son's physical science class recently. I was excited. I wanted to tell him everything I thought he needed to know. However, I knew that if I tried to do that, he would flop in the chair and stare vacantly at the television. Instead we reviewed his class notes and the text. After that, there was no stopping me.

According to the class information, pollution is caused by automobiles, industry and power plants. OK. These are some of the causes. Some of the text's suggestions for keeping the environment clean included using biodegradable containers, catalytic converters on your cars, scrubbers on exhaust stacks and better wastewater treatment at the POTW. My son did not know what a POTW was or exactly what a scrubber was. He didn't know that most industries have to treat the water before it is discharged; even though at home we could pour the same chemicals down the drain.

(Loud, frustrated, parental scream)

This information, the ideas, the suggestions are so removed from these kids. They do not care about scrubbers on stacks, or whether or not their Arch Deluxe® comes in a biodegradable container. To them, muddy water is polluted. Anything pouring out of a smoke stack, even steam, is polluting the air. Pollution prevention is throwing Mountain Dew cans in the trash.

We need to teach them that they, too, are part of the whole pollution problem and solution. The finishing industry, for the most part, could teach him about responsibility concerning pollution, pollution prevention and pollution cleanup. The industry is a concrete example of what needed to be done, what was done and what continues to be done. Unfortunately, the finishing industry is far removed from most ninth graders.

The point is that we need to make people outside of our industry aware of not only what finishing is, but what it does for them every day. People need to be aware of how the industry has improved the water supply, cleaned the air and generated less waste for landfills through recycling and recovery.

Many in the general public do not realize how much a part the finishing industry plays in their lives. Automobiles are an obvious example, but what about computers? Jewelry? Televisions? Toys? Cookware? Outdoor furniture? Wheelchairs? Desks? Lockers?

Most of us confine our comments, conversations and lectures about finishing to the finishing industry. We preach to the converted. We need to teach those outside of our industry. Chief Seattle is purported to have said, "Teach your children what we have taught our children, that the earth is our Mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves." I've started my teachings with one 14-year-old boy and his fellow ninth-graders.