No matter how many times we talk about ocean dead zones and runoff from farming operations, it can be hard for people to connect the dots between the food they eat, the farms it is grown on, and the increasing problems of dead zones, algal blooms and groundwater contamination.
But those connections still exist.And it's not just about water quality either—fertilizer runoff is causing health problems and greenhouse gas emissions too.
A new online interactive map aims to drive home the real-world stories of nitrogen impacts on natural ecosystems, and innovative efforts by farms and communities to do something about it. Nitrogen News aims to be a resource for journalists and bloggers covering nitrogen pollution issues. It features stories from across the United States about the impact of nitrogen on our waterways and ecosystems, as well as case studies of no-till agriculture, improved manure catchment and other programs aimed at tackling the problem.
Like ILoveMountains.org's interactive maps of mountaintop removal, the idea of mapping out what is happening where with nitrogen pollution in the United States is a powerful one. Environmentalists must learn that we can't change public opinion or influence policy just by spouting facts and terrifying figures. We have to make the issues we care about relevant to the mainstream public. And that means showing how pollution is impacting their quality of life, their economy and the natural world they see around them.
Nitrogen News looks like it should be an important step in doing just that.