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Too Often This is What Happens

In 1972 the EPA battled pollution; now it’s politics”

DINA CAPPIELLO, Associated Press Updated 06:09 a.m., Sunday, April 22, 2012

This headline caught our eye today, Earth Day 2012, April 22nd. This is a quick read jam-packed with perspective.

Well you say, not a lot new here; maybe yes, maybe no. After all doesn’t politics ruin everything? How often we hear, “If decision makers could just talk to one another, get along, and be civil” maybe harms would be resolved; maybe not. Freed from greediness, would things be different? Whatever the reasons, when contentious gaps are left unsettled it not only makes your blood boil, it is heart wrenching and fatal for countless. Communities are torn apart.

Take for example the legacy of disaster at Niagara Falls, NY, Love Canal in 1978, dreadful by any ones standards and years in the making. Or Libby, Montana, a public paralyzed by 70-years of a company’s asbestos-contaminated vermiculite mine, or the public drinking water supply contaminated by toxic chemicals in Woburn, Massachusetts, again many years in the offing. The movie, “A Civil Action” featuring John Travolta resulted from this environmentally toxic moment. Turned out the litigation was a watershed moment in environmental politics for Massachusetts and the country.

Consider an unfolding reality in modern day “cancer alley,” where ecological degradation is taking place.  A passage of the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, an area where a number of petro-chemical industries are centered, oftentimes spoken of as “Cancer Alley.” Used to be this stretch of land was lined with cotton and sugar plantations. Today it is home to more than 150 petrochemical plants and a place where many believe is the most toxic place in America.

So why are we, Cedar Dog and her transcriber writing about this today? Great question, the short answer, we read the article and wanted to spout off as to where the information took us. There are a gargantuan number of side-stories. It illustrates how one person or company’s actions impact the lives of thousands of people for decades.


Victimized Twice-Propensity for Silence Develops

Heather Orom, PhD, assistant professor of community health and health behavior in the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions, environmental disasters like Love Canal and the Libby asbestos dilemma often become a divisive issue in communities and, as such, family dynamics sometimes mirror what happens in the community.

Orom pointed out that the financial disaster that often accompanies an environmental disaster may enter into the equation as well. When contamination occurs, she noted, people start leaving the area and businesses start closing. As a result, those directly affected often decide to stop talking about the issue. Those who don’t go along with that philosophy are often branded as troublemakers, Orom says.

“Those who are sick and are seen with their oxygen also get labeled. So, many people, especially those with symptoms, start to isolate themselves at home and that affects how and if they discuss their illness with family members,” Orom adds. She also determined that this type of behavior could prevent people from seeking the medical or psychological attention they might need. In addition, they stop talking to family members, often ignoring important things like end-of-life issues and the fact that spouses, children, siblings, etc. perhaps should also be screened for environmental diseases.

“There is a reason why people don’t like to discuss illness in general, anyway,” says Orom. “With an environmental disaster, there is an additional layer creating a propensity for silence. In our focus groups, we saw instances where families rejected the legitimacy of the illness and estranged the person who was ill.” read more

Two films:

“Dust to Dust”,
a documentary about the Libby asbestos problem and on-going cleanup by Texas filmmaker Michael Brown. It has been chosen to appear in three major film festivals are available at the Libby library. The feature-length documentary was filmed on location in northwestern Montana.

The film, “Libby, Montana,” by Doug Hawes-Davis and Drury Gunn Carr of Missoula is being screened as a documentary work-in-progress at The Angelika. The film depicts a small, unlikely group of citizens coming together to fight for their town, according to a news release from High Plains Films of Missoula. “They find themselves at odds with local politicians, the state governorsenators, an international corporation, and even their friends and neighbors,” said the publicity. “Some prominent town residents claim the issue has been blown out of proportion by a zealous few and by a young charismatic federal bureaucrat in charge of cleanup. Emotions fly and solutions are hard to find in this disturbing, yet strangely humorous true drama.” The documentary is a “journey into the world of a hard-working, blue-collar community that exemplifies the American Dream gone horribly wrong,” filmmakers said.

Pages of side stories:

Cancer Alley
Environmental Justice Gone Missing


Five Facts about the Libby, Montana Asbestos Disaster

Even today, Re-Use of Libby Elementary School
Stalled Due to Additional Asbestos Contamination
Pat Guth contributes news and insightful content for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, April 05, 2012

Some History, The Love Canal Disaster Niagara Falls, NY

Incredible Photos

EPA’s ‘Documerica’ project, see how things have changed over 40 years
Fascinating Look From the Atlantic Monthly Magazine, America-in-Crisis 1970’s

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