Pollution: my first impression. "Is this America?"

Houston Skyline USA
Houston Skyline USA | Source

Pollution is a terrible legacy

I wrote this poem, "Is this America?", on my first visit to the USA in 1988. I was surprised by the amount of smog and pollution! As a country girl from North Queensland in Australia, my reaction was heightened. Standing on the balcony of my sister's apartment, I watched the traffic increase as it traveled across Virginia towards Washington DC. This scene inspired me to pen this short poem influenced by the Romantic era.

I was unaware when I was eighteen, that the image I captured with a few words on a torn sheet of paper was a terrible legacy. Pollution, especially that attributed to carbon has a corrupting influence on countries. Hidden from most of us until the very end of the twentieth century, it spread from one industrialised country to the next. Travelling to the USA and seeing thick smog for the first time in my life, made me more aware of my own country's disease.

Pollution in any form is a virus. It is a poison that we happily replicate, often without wanting to know the consequences. Left to fester, pollution has devastating consequences on our environment and on us. The terrible tragedy about pollution is leaving it for the next generation to figure out. Complacency is not an excuse, no matter how easier it makes our lives in the short term.


Is this America?

19 Floors Up
I, lazily leaning over a fenced balcony
Saw the early morning Sun
Like a foreign obstacle
Illuminate the horizon
Of cement discolored cases.

Grey, gloating and slowing growing
Like a blood sucking leech
A careless cloud consumes in quantities
Of alarming size,
A poisonous, painful
Carbon monoxide pollution.

PEAK HOUR.

19 Floors up.
I, recklessly running into the apartment
Stop before a glowing glass cabinet.
As I resume my post outside
The Sun, now a hazy hidden solar energy
Dimly lights the gas mask on my face.

© Tinsky 1988

Penned on a family holiday in America.


About Air Pollution

Contaminates such as harmful gases, dusts, odors and fumes enter the atmosphere to pollute the air and cause damage to our environment. Air pollutants not only cause illness in humans but also in animals and plant life and can lead to the destruction of entire ecosystems.

Air pollutants are created mostly by humans but may also be a by-product of natural causes such as volcanoes. Some of the biggest causes of air pollutants are manufacturing and use of heavy machinery including vehicles.

Not only is our fragile Earth not coping with the urbanization and industrialization of our societies, the human race severely affected with increases in air pollutant related diseases. In 1952, in just a few days in London an estimated 4000 people died from fine particle pollution.

More recently similar events have been witnessed in major cities in China. China's strong economic and industrial growth is a major factor in pollution. In the capital Beijing, face masks are almost a fashion accessory, as China leads the world, as the largest producer of CO2 emissions. In early 2013, fine particles (PM2.5) were at alarming high levels with one third of China covered in smog.

Climate change should be our biggest global concern of the twenty-first century. Despite the severe melting of ice caps and changes to weather patterns worldwide, many people still remain complacent.

Is this the first impression of the world that you want to leave for the next generation?

National Geographic - Facing Climate Change

Pollution has consquences

Industrialization steamed economies while creating a chain reaction of irreversible side effects.
Industrialization steamed economies while creating a chain reaction of irreversible side effects.
A cane fire also known as a burn off in the 1980's  pours black 'snow' into the sky. Mackay cane industry now promotes green harvesting.
A cane fire also known as a burn off in the 1980s pours black 'snow' into the sky. Mackay cane industry now promotes green harvesting. | Source
September 16, 2012 is identified as the lowest minimum for arctic sea ice for 2012. The blue tint highlights the sea ice, while the yellow line is the average sea ice minimum from 1979 through to 2010. .
September 16, 2012 is identified as the lowest minimum for arctic sea ice for 2012. The blue tint highlights the sea ice, while the yellow line is the average sea ice minimum from 1979 through to 2010. . | Source

© 2010 Tina Dubinsky

More by this Author


What environmental legacies do you want to create? 16 comments

epigramman profile image

epigramman 6 years ago

Is this America? No, in fact it's a landmark hub with fantastic writing and that's enough to put it on the map of recognition .....


Tinsky profile image

Tinsky 6 years ago from Brisbane, Australia Author

Thank you for your encouraging words!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS

It's not MY America. Houston is a Gulf Coast city. I've even lived there and never saw it looking like that picture. My residence is in Dallas but my roots in Southwest Texas are still in place. The air at my ranch out there is crystal clear. At night one can see a sky so full of stars it is unbelievable! From movies set in Queensland, I suppose it is similar. I hope your impression of my country is not rigidly fixed on some of the more polluted places!


Tinsky profile image

Tinsky 5 years ago from Brisbane, Australia Author

Nellieanna, never! I've visited a few places now in the US and I know its a diverse country with many environmental extremes, like Aus'. I live in the city of Brisbane now and miss the glorious country skies that are blotted out by the city lights.


Cheeky Girl profile image

Cheeky Girl 5 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

Interesting snapshot of America. I wonder is it better now or still the same. There's nothing to beat a lovely clear fresh sky. Great poem. The mask line was a treat.


Mr. Smith profile image

Mr. Smith 5 years ago from California

Great work. You have a very interesting style. Keep it coming.


gg.zaino profile image

gg.zaino 5 years ago from L'America

Write on Tinsky!

anyone who speaks out against the crime against the planet is worth a follow. Some believe we are breathing the last...

First mistake many make when visiting here are the draw of the big cities...an answer to this vexing problem:

You must leave the cities behind when visiting us, there is more beauty, diversity, and natural wonder here in than anywhere else on the planet.

You should have visited before the EPA in mid 70's. The US actually has more environmental controls than all the first world nations.

Tinsky Keep writing for a better environment. The Chinese are a good target.

Peace ~ gregZ


franklopez profile image

franklopez 5 years ago from Essex, United Kingdom

Great article writing! Is there ant fresh weather available in the world?


onegoodwoman profile image

onegoodwoman 5 years ago from A small southern town

It is a part of US, but it is not the wholeness of us.

It is not the fields of sugar cane, tobbaco, grains, corn , wheat, hay, straw....cotton...the fabric of your life....

It does not speak of our cattle, be they beef or dairy, of our cheeses.

It doesn't stretch into our fields of peppers, our groves of citrus, our forest of pecans or peaches.

You have not met, our resolve, our intestinal fortitude. You have not yet skied upon our snow slopes, navigated our ice covered hiways, bathed upon our beaches and collected her shells.

You have not picked okra, peanuts, or hunted our wilderness, saw our ducks sailing through the winds.......

You have not met our cowboys, rustled beef, respected our buffalo, nor have you seen the strength of the aligators jaws....

have you sailed the Mississippi? sipped a mint julep? tasted the cajun sausage, the Minnesota cheese, the western buffalo,

Have you seen the prairie where the antelope play,

did you see the land where the land meets the sky?

Did you come down the mountains in Georgia overdrive?

Did you climb her, praying that 2nd gear would hold?

Were you here long enough to invite your lover to take you hand as you sat in awe at the western sunset.........did you jiggle in your britches on a cold mountain morning?

Did you see the ducks take flight over rice paddies?

Lumber being milled?

Coal going to the energy plants?

Did you hear the lonesome whistle of a train, and wish you could be onboard?

Did you dress for Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentines, or the strawberry festival?

Were you here during the time of swimming in our rivers, our lakes, did you take a boat asail, ride a barge, a trolley, a train? Perhaps you took a metro.......rode the subway, the commuter train........maybe you took produce from New York to California in a record time. Perhaps you loaded fish in Florida and delivered them in Washington the next day........

Perhaps, as a vistor, you know more about America, than Americans do...............perhaps.

Perhaps the curves of El Paso, Omaha, Oklahoma City were not a challenge to your driving skills.

Perhaps the bridges of New York or San Francisco did not spark your interest...

Maybe you never met with down home southern justice....lucky you, some Americans do not live to tell their tales......

When other countries meet with adversity, they will call upon us..........and we will be there. Did you not see this? Did you cheat yourself on your visit?


Tinsky profile image

Tinsky 5 years ago from Brisbane, Australia Author

OneGoodWoman, I was at first tempted to delete your comment as I found it insulting and in poor taste that you presume to know much about me and of what I have seen and experienced. I wrote this poem when I was 18 I am now 40 and have visited the USA 4 more times, have gained many more experiences and will do so once again this year.

It is not that cities or other "attractions" that you have listed that draw to me the States. If I want to dress up for xmas, see coal trains and lumber being milled, join the cowboys as they muster in the cattle... (these things by the way make me cringe a little inside due the environmental destruction of the earth that some of these gloried pictures hide) - well I can also find that in my own country, they are not all unique.

As you state in your first line, this is but one image of America, one of my first as a visitor 22 years ago. It is unfortunate that you could not see the poem for what it was, a poem written by a young romantic who had never been to the big smoke (not even in her own country) and who was truly shocked at the amount of smog effecting the environment!

I have seen many other images of America some even much. much more darker than this and some lighter. No I didn't cheat myself.

Many of the images that you describe as American I can find here in my own country (just as I can find the smog). This poem was not meant to hurt your national pride or touch upon a sore sport.

There is one thing that I will state. There are some things in America that I can not see here in Australia: my sister, my nephews (the oldest had just been born and his birth was the reason for my first trip), their family and my husband's family, his mother, father, brother, cousins, aunts, uncles etc. It is the people that I love that make America special to me and above everything else, they will always be the greatest attraction.


onegoodwoman profile image

onegoodwoman 5 years ago from A small southern town

Your 'poem' does not indicate that you have had many years to mature and re-visit......no where...

if you do not with to insult me, as an American,

then just refrain from doing so. Niether smog, or pollution

are the best of any nation, as if those things do not exist in the great " down under".

Those things, are the focus of your 'poem'.

I presume to know NOTHING of you, and much of my own country.

Delete my commentary if it makes you feel superior, it gives credibilty to my defense.........


Tinsky profile image

Tinsky 5 years ago from Brisbane, Australia Author

Quote from the introduction to my poem!

"wrote this poem on my first visit to the U.S.A. when I was eighteen." - This indicates I am no longer 18 and have visited other times.

Quote from a previous comment on this hub:

"know its a diverse country with many environmental extremes, like Aus'."

Thanks for taking the time to actually read this hub...

Move on please. I have.


ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 5 years ago

Tinsky , I am not ,like some, offended by truth . There is pollution in America, And it's good that we talk about it. And seeing it is an explosive experience , the shocking and insightful first experience is well expressed here, as in you're other poetry , I appreciate your writing style. Keep up! That's why my first grade is useful , and second awesome! Great issue for writing.


Tinsky profile image

Tinsky 5 years ago from Brisbane, Australia Author

Thank you ahorseback, I appreciate your comments! I now live in a small city in Australia and lament the pall of smog that often hangs over it as well not being able to see the stars so clearly at night because of the 'light' pollution. I was so spoiled as child to live in the country closer to nature. Earth Hour (March 26) is nearly here.


Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY

Your first paragraph background was a very useful method of introduction. It helped give me an understanding of where you're coming from.

It helped to know that you were 18 at the time because I could see through your 18-year-old eyes as I read your poem.

The way you explained in your poem how you "recklessly ran back into the apartment" was a great way to express how you knew, deep inside, that you were possibly missing some remote existence of beauty in the land beyond. That was very inspirational for an 18-year-old to be aware of.


Tinsky profile image

Tinsky 4 years ago from Brisbane, Australia Author

Thanks Glenn, I really appreciate your review. My poetry is very influenced by the Romantic Era especially at this time as we were studying Keats, Wordsworth in my final Senior year at high school. I'm quite a lot older now and I'm gearing up for another USA based poem sometime soon! Since 1988, I have been back to the USA about 3 times and visited a few more places in the States very beautiful places and majestic , but still not enough. And I'm no longer a country bumpkin but an urbanite in Australia so my experience of living in Cities has advanced (I really miss seeing the stars at night though). Though still living in Australia, I've married an American from Boston and we have a child who has dual citizenship who I am sure, may want to put down roots in the USA one day (well she's only 4 at the moment but one never knows!) We are planning to visit family again in a few years time and I am determined to go to places never gone before! Thanks again for your comments.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working