Today, the city of Louisville, KY is burning more than $1 million. Between 500,000 and 700,000 people will watch as money flies through the air and is blown up in showers of pyrotechnics, in the annual extravaganza of excess, noise, pollution, and waste known as Thunder Over Louisville.
Proponents of this community conflagaration contend that Thunder generates about $31 million in economic impact for the local area, as well as valuable PR for the region. I see a pile of money being torched and clouds of toxic waste being flung into the air.
Following are some thoughts and facts about Thunder, in no particular order:
- The excellent article Fireworks: Breathtaking … and Deadly provides a worldwide perspective on the pollution and noise that fireworks generate.
- Fireworks generate vast quantities of heavy metals, smoke, and an assortment of other toxic by-products. In the case of Thunder, which this year will use nearly 120,000 pounds of shells, the quantity of pollution is staggering. Some of it showers onto the audience; some of it falls directly into the Ohio River; some of it is blown by the winds and scattered over surrounding communities.
- This year's Thunder event is costing more than $1 million to produce. That amount of money could instead…
- Build 20 Habitat for Humanity houses.
- Pay for 35 students to attend the University of Louisville for 4 years.
- Increase the annual budget of Wayside Christian Mission by 33%.
- Increase the annual donations given by Metro United Way by 5%.
- Provide 15% of the annual budget of the struggling Louisville Orchestra.
- Fund hundreds of other community and humanitarian needs, all important to the greater good. And imagine the benefit to the community if people donated the entire $31 million economic impact of the event to charitable causes, instead of buying beer and hot dogs…
- Fireworks can produce toxic noise of 130+ decibels, much higher than the point at which ear damage can begin to occur. Think about how that level of sound affects birds and animals in the region. We live about 10 miles from the explosion zone, and the noise level is so great that it sounds like a war is being fought up the block.
- It's a gorgeous spring day, but I've just had to close my window because the sound of aircraft engines overhead has become overwhelming. The Thunder Air Show features military aircraft of all shapes and sizes doing "continuous performances and fly-bys from 3 p.m. to 9:30 p.m." Our house is (very unfortunately) under one of the flight paths; as I type at 12:30, the noise is already intense and nearly constant as planes arrive and practice their routes — in 3 hours it will be much worse. Even disregarding my personal opinion of glorifying a culture of war by displaying 6 hours of deadly flying hardware, these planes require thousands of gallons of jet fuel. Gasoline is approaching $3/gallon, but my tax dollars are being burned in the fuel tanks of noisy monsters for no valid reason.
Thunder fans love the explosions, the colors, the planes, and the loud music, and they don't care about (or prefer to ignore) the environmental damage this single day causes and the alternative ways the Thunder Funds could be spent. It's an unfortunate commentary on our priorities as a community and as human beings when we have so much money to burn in our toxic fire.