Right-wingers mistake humorous Audi ad for Obama policy; embarrassment should follow

April 30, 2012

. . . but perhaps won’t.  I swear it seems as if someone has a concession at Tea Party functions selling self-lobotomy kits, and they’re selling like $10 iPhones.

File this in the “Whom the gods destroy, they first make mad” department, with loss of sense of humor as a key symptom.

You may have seen this ad during the Super Bowl, and though you may have cringed a bit at the way it tweaks people who show concerns about the environment and who urge cleaning up pollution, you probably found it pretty humorous.

But over at the Club the Constitution Constitution Club site, they appear to think it’s an ad from the Obama administration’s Department of Homeland Security.

So some hoaxster with the apt handle The Rat at Club the Constitution Constitution Club dug up a dull, run-of-the-mill document out of the Department of Homeland Security that talks about DHS policies on working to implement the government’s environmental justice policies.  “Environmental justice” is shorthand for “don’t dump garbage or toxic pollution in or close to the homes of poor people just because they are unlikely to have lawyers at the moment.”

Then The Rat flew off the handle, a truly head-exploding, insane Gish-Gallop rant about Homeland Security:

In its just-released Environmental Justice Strategy document, the DHS says the idea is to “include environmental justice practices in our larger mission efforts involving federal law enforcement and emergency response activities” and to incorporate environmental justice in “securing the homeland.” Roll that around in your head for awhile:

“Federal law enforcement” agents conducting “emergency response activities” in the name of “environmental justice” for the purpose of “securing the homeland.” The Green Police. Oh. My. God.

You couldn’t make up craziness like this guy, The Rat, could you? He clearly has no clue about the history of environmental justice (and is Google-challenged on top of that) — or he’s venally working to make people believe falsehoods.  What’s the harm in including “environmental justice practices in our larger mission?”

Does this Rat, who appears to be a complete idiot, fail to understand that “emergency response activities” are commonplace, and occur whenever an 18-wheeler carrying a load of chemicals turns over on the freeway?  Does The Rat fail to understand that spills need to be cleaned up?  (Real rats are very clean creatures, actually.  While they live in filthy, they do not prefer it, and they keep their dens very clean.  This is one way a real rat, say Rattus Norvegicus, or Rattus rattus, is superior to this faux rat.)

Here’s the description of the Audi advertisement from Auto123.com, showing none of the insanity the right wingers try to insert:

As reported by Audi

HERNDON, Va.
,– Green Police, the Audi Super Bowl ad, provides an uncommon avenue for green advocates, anteaters, Styrofoam, the legendary rock band Cheap Trick and the 2010 Green Car of the Year to find their inner connectivity.

How all of these rather disparate elements come together hasn’t been revealed yet by Audi. But in the end they will provide an entertaining look at how we all face a dizzying array of choices that can impact the environment. Some of these choices are easier than others. But, the Green Police ad will show, one of the best choices is driving the Audi A3 TDI, which won the prestigious 2010 Green Car of the Year award presented by Green Car Journal at the Los Angeles Auto Show in December.

The Audi Green Police ad will air Super Bowl Sunday in the fourth quarter of the largest television event of the year. But Super Bowl ad followers, Audi aficionados and others can get sneak peeks at what’s coming.

Audi released a teaser edit of the Green Police Super Bowl ad today, which highlights the crucial role anteaters can play in keeping the planet green. Think Styrofoam. One Super Bowl reviewer online is already betting the Audi Green Police ad will win top honors for “Best Use of an Unusual Animal in a Super Bowl Ad.” Audi disclaimer: No anteaters were harmed in the filming of the Green Police Super Bowl ad. To find that teaser video, go to www.facebook.com/audi.

Another preview of the Audi Green Police ad is the available download of the theme song of the spot. The legendary rock group Cheap Trick returned to the recording studio to remake their smash hit “Dream Police” into “Green Police.” Fans also can find that download by going to the Audi Facebook page.

For Audi, the Super Bowl has been a premium platform for promoting the performance and prestige of its cars the past three years. But underlying the fun of this year’s Green Police Super Bowl ad is a serious message: If 30% of Americans drove clean diesel cars like the Audi A3 TDI, the nation could reduce oil consumption by 1.5 million barrels a day. What’s more, clean diesel engines reduce CO2 emissions by 30%.

“Those are real-world benefits that the A3 TDI offers for today’s concerns about fuel consumption and greenhouse gas,” said Scott Keogh, Audi of America Chief Marketing Officer. “Super Bowl ads are all about fun, but the best ads point consumers to products that enrich their lives. That’s what we’ve done with the Green Police.”

Got that?  It’s a straight up, funny-as-anything Super Bowl ad pushing Audi’s TDI Diesel engined cars.

Have the right-wingers genuinely lost their humor senses?  Are they so shallow in their reading they didn’t catch the humor?  Can’t they tell a joke from reality?

In contrast, environmental justice is, by now, a rather well-established movement to marry civil rights laws and anti-pollution laws to prevent poor neighborhoods from being unfairly burdened by pollution, in a drive to clean up pollution for the benefit of all.  It’s an old enough concept that it goes by its initials, EJ.  See Wikipedia’s quick and concise entry:

The United States Environmental Protection Agency defines EJ as follows:

Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. EPA has this goal for all communities and persons across this Nation [sic]. It will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.[5]

The United States Department of Transportation defines three fundamental EJ principles for the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration as follows:

  1. To avoid, minimize, or mitigate disproportionately high and adverse human health and environmental effects, including social and economic effects, on minority populations and low-income populations.
  2. To ensure the full and fair participation by all potentially affected communities in the transportation decision-making process.
  3. To prevent the denial of, reduction in, or significant delay in the receipt of benefits by minority and low-income populations.[6]

Could a serious-minded American citizen disagree with anything in those two definitions?  That’s right out of the Boy Scout Manual, it’s Leave No Trace writ large — it’s been the policy of the U.S. government since the early 1970s, proposed by Republicans as a means to conserve our nation’s lands, waters, and other resources.

There is nothing in the DHS environmental justice policy statement to suggest the agency will do anything more than worry about whether the agency itself is environmentally friendly, and fair to minority populations in the dumping of its wastes.  Actually, there is nothing in the document opposed to pollution — only statements outlining that every group in the agency is responsible for following policy.  The document says, in too many words, that no one can use the excuse, “It was the custodian’s job to see the used fluorescent light tubes were disposed properly.”

That crazy right wing!  They just get more and more distanced from reality the closer the election looms!

Links to the post at Club the Constitution Constitution Club, with the implied allegation that Obama will be sending cops out to fine you and your local gendarmerie for using Styrofoam cups, make up a new Anti-Green Wall of Shame, made by unthinking people spouting off about what they do not know:

More than a dozen blogs, operated by at least a dozen bloggers — all of whom conserved a great deal of energy by failing to use any of their gray matter neurons before parroting a hoax.  Oy.  (My experience is that most of those blogs are terrified that someone will leave an opposing opinion in comments — if you successfully post a comment at any of those blogs, will you let us know in comments?  The Ghost of Stalin stalks heavily among the blogs of the unthinking right.)

How many people will be suckered by this hoax?  More than a dozen so far, and counting.

P.S.:  The Audi advertisement was for the 2010 Super Bowl; that’s some digging.

Update, May 3:  A few wags at the original site now claim it’s parody, that they know it’s not so.  Alas, they don’t post that, and as you can see by the update above, other anti-American Clean Air types continue to pile on, not hesitating to attack our national government for fun.


Quote of the moment: Why does the Clean Air Act mention “climate?” – Naomi Oreskes

June 3, 2011

From “The Invention of Lying” at the American Prospect:

This is ultimately about regulation — its’ about the proper role of government — and what we’re seeing in Congress right now is nothing new. We saw it back in the Newt Gingrich years. It’s about gutting the regulatory structure of the federal government and the main agenda now is to gut the EPA. The Supreme Court ruled very clearly that the EPA does have legal authority — not just authority, legal responsibility — to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act.

You know, no journalist has ever asked me why the Clean Air Act, signed in 1973, mentions climate.

Q:  Why does the Clean Air Act mention climate?

Thank you. Because people already knew back in the 1960s that pollution could change the climate.

– Naomi Oreskes to Robert S. Eshelman, “The Invention of Lying,” The American Prospect, June 3, 2011


I get e-mail, from the President on the Gulf oil eruption

June 5, 2010

First time in years I’ve gotten solid information from a politician that didn’t come wrapped in a plea for money. I got a message from President Obama today (I’m sure a few million of his closest friends got the same one):

Ed —

Yesterday, I visited Caminada Bay in Grand Isle, Louisiana — one of the first places to feel the devastation wrought by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. While I was here, at Camerdelle’s Live Bait shop, I met with a group of local residents and small business owners.

Folks like Floyd Lasseigne, a fourth-generation oyster fisherman. This is the time of year when he ordinarily earns a lot of his income. But his oyster bed has likely been destroyed by the spill.

Terry Vegas had a similar story. He quit the 8th grade to become a shrimper with his grandfather. Ever since, he’s earned his living during shrimping season — working long, grueling days so that he could earn enough money to support himself year-round. But today, the waters where he has worked are closed. And every day, as the spill worsens, he loses hope that he will be able to return to the life he built.

Here, this spill has not just damaged livelihoods. It has upended whole communities. And the fury people feel is not just about the money they have lost. It is about the wrenching recognition that this time their lives may never be the same.

These people work hard. They meet their responsibilities. But now because of a manmade catastrophe — one that is not their fault and beyond their control — their lives have been thrown into turmoil. It is brutally unfair. And what I told these men and women is that I will stand with the people of the Gulf Coast until they are again made whole.

That is why, from the beginning, we have worked to deploy every tool at our disposal to respond to this crisis. Today, there are more than 20,000 people working around the clock to contain and clean up this spill. I have authorized 17,500 National Guard troops to participate in the response. More than 1,900 vessels are aiding in the containment and cleanup effort. We have convened hundreds of top scientists and engineers from around the world. This is the largest response to an environmental disaster of this kind in the history of our country.

We have also ordered BP to pay economic injury claims, and this week, the federal government sent BP a preliminary bill for $69 million to pay back American taxpayers for some of the costs of the response so far. In addition, after an emergency safety review, we are putting in place aggressive new operating standards for offshore drilling. And I have appointed a bipartisan commission to look into the causes of this spill. If laws are inadequate, they will be changed. If oversight was lacking, it will be strengthened. And if laws were broken, those responsible will be brought to justice.

These are hard times in Louisiana and across the Gulf Coast, an area that has already seen more than its fair share of troubles. The people of this region have met this terrible catastrophe with seemingly boundless strength and character in defense of their way of life. What we owe them is a commitment by our nation to match the resilience they have shown. That is our mission. And it is one we will fulfill.

Thank you,

President Barack Obama

Good news is that BP now reports some success in stopping the flow of oil.  Information flows increase, oil flows decrease — good trends.

Obama and Jindal, May 2, 2010 - Pete Souza, WH photo

Caption from the White House: President Barack Obama talks with U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen, who is serving as the National Incident Commander, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, aboard Marine One as they fly along the coastline from Venice to New Orleans, La., May 2, 2010. John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, is in the background. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza). (This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.)

More information:


DDT propaganda machine

January 23, 2010

Media Check carries edited excerpts from a book by Daniel Gutstein from last year, Not A Conspiracy Theory: How Business Propaganda Hijacks Democracy (Key Porter, 2009) by Donald Gutstein, Key Porter (2009).

In the excerpted chapter Gutstein details how nefarious interest groups conspired to ruin the reputation of Rachel Carson and environmental protection activists with false claims about DDT and environmentalist aims.

The problem with the coverage of the DDT issue and with the eco-imperialism charge is that they are based on falsehoods that the media did not investigate. Former CBC-TV National News anchor Knowlton Nash once said that “…our job in the media… is to… provide a searchlight probing for truth through the confusing, complicated, cascading avalanche of fact and fiction.” In this case, the media let their audiences down; fiction prevailed over fact.

Despite what the pro-DDT organizations alleged, DDT was not banned for use in mosquito control and could continue to be used in 25 countries in malarial regions. In these countries, limited amounts of DDT can be sprayed on the inside walls of houses to combat malaria-carrying mosquitoes. “The environmental community is collaborating with the World Health Organization to ensure that the phase-out of the remaining uses of DDT does not undermine the battle against malaria and the well-being of people living in malarial zones,” the United Nations Environmental Programme reported when the treaty came into force.

Has anyone read the book?  Has anyone seen it?  (So what if it’s aimed at Canada?)

More thoughts:  Years ago, when Jan Brunvand first achieved some fame cataloging urban myths, it occurred to me that his books should be required reading in the very first survey classes in journalism school.   Maybe they should be required reading in political science, rhetoric, and philosophy, too.

Gutstein’s book would be a good reader for a class on reporting, or investigative reporting, or science reporting, or political reporting.  I’m not sure where it would fit in to a science curriculum, but I wish more scientists came out of undergraduate years aware that they can get hammered by these hoax-selling, axe-grinding disinformation machines.  All those reports about how Rachel Carson is the “murderer of millions?”  They coarsen dialog, they misinform, disinform and malinform the public.  They do great disservice to citizenship and voters, and ultimately, to our democratic institutions.

It’s not enough to have a counter, good-information plan.  These people must be convinced to stop.

More:


Christian environmental stewardship: Disciples of Christ and the Alverna Covenant

August 5, 2009

I learned something new tonight.  The Disiciples of Christ formally adopted wise environmental stewardship as a denominational goal in 1981.

History of the Alverna Covenant

The Alverna Covenant was written by members of the Task Force on Christian Lifestyle and Ecology of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) while meeting at Alverna Retreat Center, a Franciscan retreat in Indianapolis, Ind. The name has added significance. Alverna is named for Mt. Alverna in Italy, the mountain retreat given to Francis of Assisi. Francis is honored for his concern for the care of and relatedness of all creation. The 800th anniversary of Francis’ birth was celebrated in 1981, the year the Alverna Covenant was first introduced at the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

The Alverna Covenant

Whereas:

  • God has created the world with finite resources;
  • God has given to us the stewardship of the earth;
  • God has established order through many natural cycles.

And it is evident that:

  • We are consuming resources at a rate that cannot be maintained;
  • We are interrupting many natural cycles;
  • We are irresponsibly modifying the environment through consumption and pollution;
  • We are populating the earth at a rate that cannot be maintained;

As a member of the human family and a follower of Jesus Christ, I hereby covenant that:

  • I will change my lifestyle to reduce my contribution to pollution;
  • I will support recycling efforts;
  • I will search for sustainable lifestyles;
  • I will work for public policies which lead to a just and sustainable society;
  • I will share these concerns with others and urge them to make this Covenant.
  • What other denominations have statements on wise resource stewardship? What do they say?

    Tip of the old scrub brush to Darrel Manson, who writes at Hollywood Jesus.

    Resources:


    Alma conference on DDT and human health calls for DDT phase out (Pine River statement)

    May 5, 2009

    Wheels of science grind carefully, accurately, and consequently, slowly.

    The report from last year’s Alma College conference on DDT and human health has been published in .pdf form at Environmental Health Perspectives:  “The Pine River Statement:  Human Health Consequences of DDT Use.”

    Carefully?  Check out the pages of references to contemporary studies of human health effects.  Each one of the studies cited is denied by the more wild advocates of DDT use, and each of those studies refutes major parts of the case against DDT restrictions.

    Warning sign near the old Velsicol plant where DDT was produced, on the Pine River, Michigan. The 1972 ban on DDT use in the U.S. was prompted by damage to wildlife and domestic animals; a 2009 conference noted that human health effects of DDT are also still of great concern, and perhaps cause alone for continuing the ban on DDT.
    Warning sign near the old Velsicol plant where DDT was produced, on the Pine River, Michigan. The 1972 ban on DDT use in the U.S. was prompted by damage to wildlife and domestic animals; a 2009 conference noted that human health effects of DDT are also still of great concern, and perhaps cause alone for continuing the ban on DDT.

    Warning sign near the old Velsicol plant where DDT was produced, on the Pine River, Michigan. The 1972 ban on DDT use in the U.S. was prompted by damage to wildlife and domestic animals; a 2009 conference noted that human health effects of DDT are also still of great concern, and perhaps cause alone for continuing the ban on DDT.

    Accurately?  Notice how the conference marks those areas where we do not have good research, such as in the long-term health effects to people who live in the houses that are sprayed with DDT for indoor residual spraying (IRS).  While the conference report cites studies showing elevated DDT levels in the milk of women who live in those homes, they draw no unwarranted conclusions.  Alas, that leaves the field free for Paul Driessen to rush in and claim there are no ill effects — but read the paper for yourself, and you’ll see that’s far from what the research shows.  The paper exposes Steven Milloy’s claims to be almost pure, unadulterated junk science.

    Slowly?  Well, it’s been more than a year.

    The paper makes one powerful statement that is only implicit:  The claims that DDT is safe, and that use of the stuff should be increased, are wildly inflated.

    The paper’s abstract:

    Objectives: Dichlorodiphenyl trichloroethane (DDT) was used worldwide until the 1970s, when concerns about its toxic effects, its environmental persistence, and its concentration in the food supply led to usage restrictions and prohibitions. In 2001, more than 100 countries signed the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), committing to eliminate the use of 12 POPs of greatest concern. DDT use was however allowed for disease vector control. In 2006, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Agency for International Development endorsed indoor DDT spraying to control malaria. To better inform current policy, we reviewed epidemiologic studies published in the last five years which investigated the human health consequences of DDT and/or DDE exposure.

    Data Sources and Extraction: We conducted a PubMed search in October 2008 and retrieved 494 studies.

    Data Synthesis: Use restrictions have been successful in lowering human exposure to DDT, however, blood concentration of DDT and DDE are high in countries where DDT is currently being used or was more recently restricted. The recent literature shows a growing body of evidence that exposure to DDT and its breakdown product DDE may be associated with adverse health outcomes such as breast cancer, diabetes, decreased semen quality, spontaneous abortion, and impaired neurodevelopment in children.

    Conclusions: Although we provide evidence to suggest that DDT and DDE may pose a risk to human health, we also highlight the lack of knowledge about human exposure and health effects in communities where DDT is currently being sprayed for malaria control. We recommend research to address this gap and to develop safe and effective alternatives to DDT.

    Rachel Carson was right.

    Tell other people about this conference report.  This is real science, and it deserves to be spread far and wide.

    Tip of the old scrub brush to Ed Lorenz at Alma College, both for providing the news, and for his work to organize the original conference.

    Other information:


    Tiger justice, with a hint of poetry

    February 23, 2009

    Wild Sumatran tiger.jpg  Face on with wild tiger in Sumatra. This animal didnt like camera traps and destroyed three over a weekend. Photo by Michael Lowe, 2006, Wikimedia Commons

    Wild Sumatran tiger - "Face on with wild tiger in Sumatra. This animal didn't like camera traps and destroyed three over a weekend." Photo by Michael Lowe, 2006, Wikimedia Commons. See William Blake's poem, below.

    Reuters reports from Jakarta, on six people killed by tigers in Indonesia recently:

    On Sunday, a tiger attacked and killed a man carrying logs near an illegal logging camp, Wurjanto said. Two other loggers in the same area were mauled and killed on Saturday.

    Preliminary findings suggested the attacks were taking place because people were disturbing the habitat of the tigers, Wurjanto said.

    *   *   *   *   *

    The Sumatran tiger is the most critically endangered of the world’s tiger subspecies.

    Forest clearances, killings due to human-tiger conflict, and illegal hunting for the trade in their parts, have led to tiger numbers halving to an estimated 400-500 on the Indonesian island from an estimated 1,000 in the 1970s, conservationists said.

    Under Texas law, a homeowner may use deadly force to  stop trespassers, especially someone who poses a threat to the homeowner and the property.  I wonder whether the tigers will even get a trial.

    A tree poacher mauled to death by the endangered tigers whose habitat he destroys:  Perfect example of poetic justice.

    The Tyger

    Tyger! Tyger! burning bright,
    In the forests of the night,
    What immortal hand or eye
    Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

    In what distant deeps or skies
    Burnt the fire in thine eyes?
    On what wings dare he aspire?
    What the hand dare seize the fire?

    And what shoulder, and what art?
    Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
    And when thy heart began to beat,
    What dread hand, and what dread feet?

    What the hammer? What the chain?
    In what furnace was thy brain?
    What the anvil? What dread grasp
    Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

    When the stars threw down their spears,
    And watered heaven with their tears,
    Did he smile his work to see?
    Did he who made the Lamb, make thee?

    Tyger! Tyger! burning bright,
    In the forests of the night,
    What immortal hand or eye
    Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

    — William Blake

    Resources:


    Remembering Love Canal, 30 years ago

    November 26, 2008

    Hell-raising site called Red State Rebels remembers that the Love Canal disaster came to a head 30 years ago, with the evacuation of the homes surrounding the toxic dump site.

    Your students probably don’t know about it, and the textbooks will do the story no justice, if they mention it at all.  While this article is written from a biased perspective, it’s a solid recounting of the history — and your AP kids need to read stuff with viewpoints, anyway.

    Adeline Levine, a sociologist who wrote a book about Love Canal, described to me the scene she had witnessed exactly 30 years earlier, on Aug. 11, 1978. “It was like a Hitchcock movie,” she said, “where everything looks peaceful and pleasant, but something is slumbering under the ground.”

    That “something” was more than 21,000 tons of chemical waste. The mixed brew contained more than 200 different chemicals, many of them toxic. They were dumped into the canal — which was really more of a half-mile-long pond — in the 1940s and 1950s by the Hooker Electrochemical Co. In 1953, the canal was covered with soil and sold to the local school board, and an elementary school and playground were built on the site. A working-class neighborhood sprang up around them.

    “The neighborhood looked very pleasant,” says Levine, who was a sociology professor at the State University of New York, Buffalo, in 1978. “There were very nice little homes, nicely kept, with gardens and flowers and fences and kids’ toys, and then there were young people who were rushing out of their homes with bundles and packing up their cars and moving vans.”

    Love Canal was in the midst of an all-out panic when Levine arrived; just nine days earlier, the state health commissioner had declared an emergency and recommended that pregnant women and children under the age of two evacuate the neighborhood. A week after that, the state and federal governments agreed to buy out homes next to the canal.

    See the entire piece.

    Resources:


    Atomic history, nuclear future

    October 19, 2008

    We’re going to see more nuclear power plants in the U.S., it’s a safe bet.  Both presidential candidates support developing alternatives to oil and coal.  Nuclear power is one of the alternatives.

    John McCain kept repeating his comfort words, that ‘storage of wastes is not a problem.’ There is not a lot of evidence to support his claims.  With turmoil in financial markets, however, the nuclear power issue has gotten very little serious attention or scrutiny.  From the push to get compensation for radiation victims of atomic weapons and development in the U.S., I learned that the issue is not really whether wastes and other materials can be safely used and wastes stored. The issues are entirely issues of will.

    Advantage to Obama, I think.  He’s not claiming that the storage problems are all solved.  A clear recognition of reality is good to have in a president.

    Son Kenny sent a link to a history site, Damn Interesting, and it tells the story of the Techa River in the old Soviet Union — a place condemned for generations by the nuclear excesses of the past.

    To make the story briefer, in their rush to produce nuclear weapons, the Soviets did nothing to protect Russia from radioactive waste products until it was much too late.  Efforts to reduce radioactive emissions, by storing them in huge underwater containers, resulted in massive explosions that released more radiation than Chernobyl (What?  You hadn’t heard of that, either?).

    It’s a reminder that safety and security with peaceful uses of nuclear power depend on humans doing their part, and thinking through the problems before they arise.

    Can we deal with radioactive wastes?  We probably have the technology.  Do we have the will? Ask yourself:  How many years has the U.S. studied Yuccan Mountain to make a case to convince Nevadans to handle the waste?  How many more decades will it take?

    How is our history of dealing with nuclear contamination issues?  Not good.

    Last spring SMU’s history department sponsored a colloquium on a power generation in the southwest, specifically with regard to coal and uranium mining on the Navajo Reservation.   We’ve been there before.

    One of the photos used in one of the lectures, by Colleen O’Neill of Utah State, showed two Navajo miners outside a uranium mine during a previous uranium boom.  Neither one had a lick of protective equipment.  Underground uranium mining exposes miners to heave concentrations of radon gas, and if a miner is unprotected by breathing filters at least, there is a nearly 100% chance the miner will get fatal lung cancers.

    Of the 150 Navajo uranium miners who worked at the uranium mine in Shiprock, New Mexico until 1970, 133 died of lung cancer or various forms of fibrosis by 1980 ([Ali, 2003] ).

    Our Senate hearings on radiation compensation, in the 1970s, produced dozens of pages of testimony that Atomic Energy Commission officials understood the dangers, but did nothing to protect Navajo miners (or other miners, either).  It is unlikely that anyone depicted in those photos is alive today.

    AP Photo  (borrowed from ehponline.org)

    "Mine memory - Navajo miners work the Kerr-McGee uranium mine, 7 May 1953. Today, uranium from unremediated abandoned mines contaminates nearby water supplies. image: AP Photo" (borrowed from ehponline.org) This photo is very close to the one used by Prof. O'Neill. It may have been taken at nearly the same time. If you know of any survivors from this photo, please advise.

    At a refining facility on the Navajo Reservation, highly radioactive wastewater was stored behind an inadequate earthen dam.  The dam broke, and the wastes flowed through a town and into local rivers.  Contamination was extensive.

    Attempts to collect for the injuries to Navajo miners and their families were thrown out of court in 1980, on the grounds that the injuries were covered under workers compensation rules (where injury compensation was also denied, generally).

    Navajos organized to protest the power plant. One wonders whether they can win it.

    Sen. McCain seems cock sure that radioactive wastes won’t kill thousands of Americans in the future as they have in the past.  The uranium mining and uranium tailings issues occurred in Arizona, the state McCain represents.  Does he know?

    We regard ourselves in the U.S. as generally morally superior to “those godless communists.”  Can we demonstrate moral superiority with regard to development of peacetime nuclear power, taking rational steps to protect citizens and others, and rationally, quickly and fairly compensating anyone who is injured?

    That hasn’t happened yet.

    When [uranium] mining [on the Navajo Reservation] ceased in the late 1970’s, mining companies walked away from the mines without sealing the tunnel openings, filling the gaping pits, sometimes hundreds of feet deep, or removing the piles of radioactive uranium ore and mine waste. Over 1,000 of these unsealed tunnels, unsealed pits and radioactive waste piles still remain on the Navajo reservation today, with Navajo families living within a hundred feet of the mine sites. The Navajo graze their livestock here, and have used radioactive mine tailings to build their homes. Navajo children play in the mines, and uranium mine tailings have turned up in school playgrounds (103rd Congress, 1994 ).

    Think of the story of Techa River as a warning.

    Resources:


    Malaria/DDT Carnival addendum

    October 11, 2008

    It’s almost as interesting that these posts show up on the same day, as what they say.

    Following on the heels of the impromptu Malaria/DDT carnival earlier in the week, take a look at these posts:


    Thought of the moment: Environmental movement most diverse

    August 6, 2008

    Environmentalism is the most politically diverse movement in history. Here in the Kingsnorth climate camp, I have met anarchists, communists, socialists, liberals, conservatives and, mostly, pragmatists. I remember sitting in a campaign meeting during the Newbury bypass protests and marvelling at the weirdness of our coalition. In the front row sat the local squirearchy: brigadiers in tweeds and enormous moustaches, titled women in twin sets and headscarves. In the middle were local burghers of all shapes and sizes. At the back sat the scuzziest collection of grunge-skunks I have ever laid eyes on. The audience disagreed about every other subject under the sun – if someone had asked us to decide what day of the week it was, the meeting would had descended into fisticuffs – but everyone there recognised that our quality of life depends on the quality of our surroundings.

    The environment is inseparable from social justice. Climate change, for example, is primarily about food and water. It threatens the fresh water supplies required to support human life. As continental interiors dry out and the glaciers feeding many of the rivers used for irrigation disappear, climate change presents the greatest of all threats to the future prospects of the poor. The rich will survive for a few decades at least, as they can use their money to insulate themselves from the effects. The poor are being hammered already.

    British ecologist, journalist and activist, George Monbiot (Wikimedia image)

    British ecologist, journalist and activist, George Monbiot (Wikimedia image)


    What if we’re wrong about global warming? Bob Park sez . . .

    July 25, 2008

    4. UNCOOL: LOT OF HEAT FROM GLOBAL-WARMING DENIERS.
    Suppose, I asked myself, that the deniers are right and the CO2 thing is a mistake? What will happen if the world takes the CO2 thing seriously, adopting common sense measures to counter anthropogenic warming and there never was any warming in the first place? 1) there will more non-renewable resources to leave to our progeny; 2) we will breath cleaner air and see the stars again, the way we saw them half a century ago; 3) we could stop paving over the planet, and 4) cut down on the number of billionaires. If we’re wrong we could have a party. We could have a party either way.

    Robert L. Park, What’s New, July 25, 2008

    At Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, see also: “Starbucks controversy: The Way I See It #289 (global warming)”


    Meanwhile, back at the DDT manufacturing plant . . .

    June 9, 2008

    Don’t breathe the air, don’t eat the eggs.  Life next door to a DDT plant in India.

    In case you were wondering where nations that want to use DDT might find some, now that it’s not being made in the U.S.

    Read the rest of this entry »


    Trafficking workers’ bodies for profit

    May 27, 2008

    If a guy beats someone to death, it’s murder, right?  And so the nation’s labor laws hold an employer liable for the death of a worker when unsafe working conditions caused the death.

    But what if the worker doesn’t die?  What if the worker only loses his arms, or legs, or arms and legs?

    No death, no crime, U.S. law says. 

    What if the employer poisons the worker with cyanide that eats away the worker’s brain

    No death, no crime, U.S. law says.

    My colleagues and I were shocked to learn that an employer who breaks the nation’s worker-safety laws can be charged with a crime only if a worker dies. Even then, the crime is a lowly Class B misdemeanor, with a maximum sentence of six months in prison. (About 6,000 workers are killed on the job each year, many in cases where the deaths could have been prevented if their employers followed the law.) Employers who maim their workers face, at worst, a maximum civil penalty of $70,000 for each violation.

    Read a plea to change the law, in the New York Times, from David H. Uhlmann, a law professor at the University of Michigan.


    War on Science: CDC publishes suppressed study

    March 15, 2008

    On the eve of a major conference on health effects of DDT, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control published a study it had suppressed for several months, detailing pollution effects in the Great Lakes area. The author of the study, demoted but still outspoken, was grudgingly granted permission to attend the Kenaga International Conference on DDT and Health, which opened yesterday at Alma College in Alma, Michigan.

    Alma Conference logo

    Science won the skirmish, getting the study pried out of CDC. News coverage of the conference stopped short of spectacular so far: Only local Michigan media outlets provided coverage. If we won the war, but no one knew . . . ?

    The Morning Sun suggested that further studies of health effects in the area are required, and that no successful cleanup of a toxic site is ever done without health studies showing the need.

    [Jane] Keon[, chairwoman of the Pine River Superfund Citizen Task Force] hasn’t read the entire report but did read the portions about Gratiot County.

    “There’s no new information, and everything mentioned is well-known and verified by ATSDR and CDC,” she said. “I understand that in addition to 200 researchers and much peer review the report data was reviewed by state and local health departments in the areas of concern without the complaint that the science was weak.

    “We in the task force view the report as further proof that a full-blown health study is needed in Gratiot County. From our own studies we also know that communities with contaminated sites that have a health study to point to get very thorough cleanups, while communities that do not have a health study do not get thorough cleanups.”

    The task force has twice applied for grants to perform a comprehensive local heath study but were turned down both times.

    “The reasons offered (for rejection) seemed lame and illogical,” Keon said. “One time we were told that we didn’t have enough data, and yet that is why we desired the health study – to have a scientific collection of data.”

    A citizens’ group in Washington, D.C., the Center for Public Integrity, obtained a copy of the study last year and made it available on the internet. There is no indication I can find of whether there were changes made in the study between the leaking and the formal publication.


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