Pure Michigan Mercury

Pure Michigan Mercury

You’d think that I’d be in a more benevolent mood, given the time of year and all. With snow falling outside and a new year filled with promise on the immediate horizon, I should be fairly cheery. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m in a bad mood or anything, it’s just that the Chicago Tribune made a big mistake with its cover story on Monday, and it’s got me a little fired (possible pun intended) up. “Mercury emissions rising in Illinois”, written by Michael Hawthorne might not have looked like much to a headline reader, but the story that unfolded below provided copious shells of potent ammunition for my big literary gun that I have pointed directly east.

According to the story, mercury pollution is on the rise in Illinois, which creates a problem for Illinoisans because what goes up, must come down. As much as I love Illinois, the state has a pretty poor environmental record, and the increase of mercury emissions from coal-fired plants is a serious concern for my prized Illinoisans. Common sense tells me that if I’m living under a silver shroud of mercury, I might want to get out of the state on weekends, so I can retreat to a friendlier environ, ideally one with less mercury. Lake Geneva provides such an escape, but there’s some trouble looming for our dear friends who might be, at this moment, huddled in a secret bunker, discussing the ramifications of such a troubling story, in such a prominent publication. Tim Allen at the head of the table. Unimportant people surrounding him. Foreheads moist with the type of cold sweat that can only come from those trying their darndest to spin a very unflattering story.

What is it that’s causing a rapid rise in Rolaids sales in the previously great state of Michigan? It’s the revelation that while Illinois might be the second worst polluter in our strong nation, Michigan is the downright worst. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, really. For all those Cider House Rules radio ads touting how utopic the land of green grass, green water, and frolicking unicorns might be, a state with so many Superfund sites just can’t be that pure. At Lake Geneva, there are no such Superfund problems. No mercury providing a literal silver lining to every passing rain cloud. Just clean water, clean air, and lots of people who love those sorts of things.

If Michigan is struggling with pollution like it is, why on earth would someone want to vacation there? Why drive further to a land where mercury and honey flow, when you could just drive north to a Midwestern promised land where the inhabitants prefer a cold glass of local milk with their honey? Maybe Tim and his friends, tucked away in that secure bunker somewhere, will be able to successfully spin this story. Maybe he’ll explain that the mercury is good for all those grapes that he says are grown there. Maybe he’ll explain how it’s good for the golf courses, because the additional metal content of the soil helps a tee shot roll just a little further. Whatever the case, can’t we just agree that it’s best to rid our lives of mercury in any way possible? Good. See you at the lake. The one that shimmers with spring fed splendor, not the one that shimmers from something I prefer to find only in my thermostat.

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