Statement at the New York—New Jersey Metropolitan Area Air Pollution Control Conference

January 4, 1967


New York/New Jersey

On a trip to Latin America last year, I saw people in Recife, in the poorest part of Brazil, who ate crabs which lived off the garbage that the people themselves threw in the shallow water near their shabby homes. And whenever I tell this story to Americans, the reaction is: how sad; how terrible; that such poverty, such underdevelopment, should exist in the world. But we New Yorkers are in a poor position from which to extend pity. For every year, the average New Yorker—old and young, rich and poor, athlete or infirm recluse—breathes in 750 pounds of his own wastes. The fuel which generates our electricity; the gasoline which runs our cars and taxi cabs and buses; the four pounds of trash and garbage which each of us gives the city each day, and even the garbage we dropped into our apartment-house incinerators—all these are discharged into the air we breathe. And because there are so many of us, crowding into this tiny fraction of the United States, a great pall of filthy air blankets the entire metropolitan area—and we all must breathe the same air into which we carelessly spill our refuse.