What Gives You the Right to Keep Me Healthy?

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That is the question posed by many Americans who are fired up and joining the movement by some local, state and federal officials to attack environmental regulations.  The rhetoric fueling the fire: the government needs to step off; capitalism can handle it; regulations are job killers. Let’s review.

Environmental regulations are relatively new to the U.S. – having begun under Nixon with the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in 1969 and the launching of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970.

NEPA and the EPA were born through nationwide hullabaloo caused, in large part, by the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. In it, Carson exposed the public to the dangers to human health/the environment/livelihoods (I use a ‘slash’ because these dangers come in tandem) due to an unregulated industry recklessly spreading cancer and lying about it to unquestioning elected officials.  This was a new thing for folks back then. The public, it seems, did not have a handle on the fact that industries could just dump their waste into the air, soil and water – and that this pollution could make them sick, or kill the nature they relied upon for their livelihoods (hmm, ‘kill the nature’ – maybe a good slogan for our new EPA?)!

To recap:

  • People in the 60s and 70s – across this country – let the government know we needed them to stop industries from having the freedom to harm or kill us/the environment/our livelihoods with their pollution.
  • People in the 2010s – across this country – are letting the government know we need them to stop stopping industries from having the freedom to harm or kill us/the environment/our livelihoods with their pollution.

HERE’S WHAT UNREGULATED INDUSTRY LOOKS LIKE IN CHINA:

Image credits at: http://www.boredpanda.com/pollution-china/

 

HERE’S WHAT THE U.S. LOOKED LIKE BEFORE THE SLOW BUT STEADY CLEAN-UP POWERED BY THE EPA

Cuyahoga river on fire in 1952: Cleveland State University Library

 

Cleveland, obscured by industrial smog in July 1973: Frank J. Aleksandrowicz/NARA

 

The Georgetown Gap through which raw sewage flowed into the Potomac River: John Neubaur/NARA

 

The middle branch of Baltimore Harbor in 1977: Jim Kimmerell/NARA

 

Love Canal dump site at Niagara Falls, USA.

 

AND THE U.S. TODAY – AS WE BEGIN TO SEE THE EFFECTS OF LOCAL AND FEDERAL DEREGULATION:

Flint, Michigan, where unregulated water has recently led to involuntary manslaughter charges against 5 officials who failed to inform the public about the dangers they knew about.

Image Credit: ACLU of Michigan

 

Wilmington, NC – where chemical company Chemours, a spin-off of DuPont, has reportedly been dumping carcinogenic chemicals into drinking water since 2008:

Photo Credit: Emily Watson – http://www.encorepub.com/

 

North Carolina’s Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations create pools of animal waste, which is sprayed on nearby fields; its effects on nearby populations of citizens and the drinking water in the river it pollutes are unregulated:

Some of those effects this year included closure of most of the area’s shellfish harvesting areas:

Credit: NCDEQ- http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/shellfish-closure-maps

 

So, why is it that so many of our citizens are angrily chanting against environmental regulations? The answer: freedom.

Through the power of rhetoric, the administration and many in Congress who need corporate polluters to be happy, have duped half the public into thinking that FREEDOM = DEREGULATION.  What these citizens are being made to believe is that corporate freedom is the same as citizen freedom.  When, in fact, once corporations are entitled to the freedom to recklessly pollute again, the freedoms we take for granted will degrade before our eyes: the freedom to walk outside without a face mask, the freedom to eat food that is not laced with chemicals, the freedom to visit a clean beach or park, the freedom to drink water without fear of disease.

It’s time we, as citizens, come together and stop believing the rhetoric created to transform our government from one: of the people, by the people and for the people to one: of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations.

Contrary to the Supreme Court’s belief, corporations are NOT people. They are entities created for the sole purpose of making money. Some of them can be relied upon to make money and not kill nature/people/livelihoods, but some of them – especially the biggest, dirtiest ones – need a little cajoling.

 

 

Thoughts, opinions, anecdotes? Please share!