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Gunpowder and Independence: Rethinking the Fourth

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A recent article in Forecast Earth had us rethinking the way we celebrate our country's independence. Aptly enough, most of the brilliant explosions of color that will light up American skies tonight are fueled by compressed gunpowder, filling the air with "heavy metals, carbon monoxide and sulfur oxides," writes Marcia Passos Duffy. What's more, when fireworks are set off they leave a trail of barium compounds behind that can poison our patriotic hearts. And few will be surprised to learn that the majority of the fireworks we sneak off to buy from local vendors are imported from China, where the regard for safe manufacturing and fair labor practices still leaves much to be desired.

Of course, there are safer and cleaner alternatives for celebrating American freedom with pyrotechnics. The gunpowder can be replaced by nitrogen and even compressed air, as Disney is working on, producing less soot and smoke without sacrificing on the magnificent kaleidoscope of rainbow lights we've grown to desire. Above all else, Forecast Earth urges us to clean up after ourselves when the call to freedom has ebbed to a warm afterglow. Celebrating American freedom should go hand in hand with protecting the health of the earth.


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