Speaking Out

LOS Angeles smog or acid rain . . . pollution is a topic the media like to address more often than their readers or viewers like to take responsibility for. Twenty-five years have passed since I visited Los Angeles. That was before it gained a reputation for smog. Acid rain is equally foreign to me. Living as I do in the most southwestern part of Marco Island, Fla., I don't suffer from gasoline exhaust. Here we drive around in air-conditioned cars, shut off from car emissions. The only time I'm bothered is when a pair of low-flying mosquito-spraying planes buzz over laying down a blanket of insecticide.

However, when we flew to Athens, Greece, this summer I had an unpleasant introduction to the menace of gasoline exhaust. From my Hilton Hotel window in midtown I could see curb-to-curb traffic. When I looked toward that amazing Parthenon (so close as to be almost a next-door neighbor), I noticed a veil of haze on the horizon beyond it and sunlight was not bright but filtered.

During a guided tour of the Acropolis, we were told how pollution is eating at the monuments. It seems a pity that remains of the Parthenon which have endured since 450 years before Christ should be threatened now because of car exhausts.

We took a cab to downtown Athens and had to keep windows open because of warm weather. No taxis were air-conditioned. I was almost asphyxiated by fumes; the smell was awful.

After Athens, we went by ship to Odessa, Russia. There we were driven around in Intourist buses. On the streets, we saw very few private cars or taxis and there was no noticeable smog.

Years ago, when the duc de Richelieu took refuge in Odessa at the time of the French Revolution, he made generous contributions to the city that had given him haven. He imported trees and planted each street with a different variety. I saw acacias, horse chestnuts, linden, and maple. Those trees are now grown to a leafy towering. It made me wonder: Could the abundant foliage have contributed to Odessa's cleaner air?

Istanbul, Turkey, was our next port. Here again, we were surrounded by automobiles, ''taksis,'' and smog. The streets were barely wide enough to hold all the traffic. Again, none used air-conditioning, so windows had to be kept open. The atmosphere was choking.

Venice, Italy, was our final destination. Venice, of course, had no autos. Waterways were busy with boat traffic but we weren't aware of exhaust fumes. If there were any apparent pollution in Venice, it was a superabundance of people and pigeons. Yet, museum curators and guards at the Doge's Palace complained about how often treasured paintings had to be sent out for restoration because of exposure to unclean air.

In every country we visited there was fear of a nuclear threat and an expressed hope for peace. Americans join them in agreement that peace is a priority issue.

However, I was glad to read recently in the Fort Myers News Press that the Challenger, which took off at 7:03 that morning from Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, will be studying the effect of pollution on the earth's atmosphere. Apparently NASA believes, as I do, that once peace is secured there is no more urgent issue facing mankind than the other problem which starts with the letter ''P.'' We can't afford to pay the price of pollution.

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