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Polluting, or contaminating, the environment is widely recognized as an undesirable by-product of both good and bad activities. For instance, animal waste in a stream could be an undesirable effect of the desirable activity of raising cattle. Similarly, the production of power in power plants is a beneficial and necessary activity, yet such plants emit significant amounts of the pollutants sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, and mercury. Many industries emit harmful products and gases into the environment, all of which are either man-made or facilitated products of manufacturing. Barring a technological miracle, a certain amount of pollutants in the environment is a necessary evil in many activities.

The fact that pollutants are viewed as an acceptable by-product of certain activities that are desirable to the ...

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