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Man's involvement with the water environment is most intense in the shallow-water zone bordering landmasses. This area provides food, pleasure, mineral commodities, a means of transportation, an avenue for military exploitation, and a convenient place to dump waste. Historically, rewards for utilization were accrued by the aggressive, imaginative, respectful, and the lucky; losses were sustained by those who tempted or disregarded nature. This relation was direct and accountability was short-term.
Studies have been presented in which evidence was cited for environmental degradation or an apparent increase in the level of contaminants in the water realm as a result of man's activities. Journalists have publicized these studies, but often have neglected or ignored the less sensational reports which are not amenable to instant analysis. Consequently, the public reacts in alarm by advocating stricter governmental control or abolition of activities which may be detrimental to the environment. Conflicts among users arise and a recipe for a confrontation battleground evolves.
This enigmatic situation poses an interesting question: is anyone interested in comprehensive evaluations which require great effort and understanding; or has our capacity for reasoning been limited by impatience, cynicism, and emotionalism?
The present dilemma to choose between two alternatives can be illustrated by several incidents involving environmental concern in coastal waters. These case histories lead to the question: are we really limited to only 2 options?
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