THE BLOG

Environmental Crimes

02/10/2015 09:38 am ET | Updated Apr 11, 2015

All civilized societies rely on laws for protection from crimes. I have no trouble detecting something bad, abhorrent, and criminal.

When certain people or corporations do things that harm innocent people, they are committing a crime. I don't mean the acts of thieves, murderers and warmongers. Thieves, killers and warmongers are straightforward criminals. I mean the behavior of businessmen and their government regulators. I learned a few things about this class of people at EPA.

My EPA work experience brought me in contact with environmental policies and acts verging on the criminal. I did not speak of crimes when I spoke to my colleagues. I let them explain to me why the government sometimes enforces a law, other times ignores another law. Or why is the government keeping silent when it knows pollution often contaminates and, therefore, poisons drinking water and the food people eat? I consider poisoning the water and food of millions the worst crime possible. Why, if I were right, no one ever spoke or speaks about such mass crimes?

What could be more precious than human heath and the integrity and health of the natural world?

These are difficult questions and no one gave me a straightforward answer. For the most part, there's still silence about these questions.

Experts at EPA spoke carefully about hazard, potential risk, but rarely of certain risk. Even when they concluded that the approval of a cancer-causing weed killer would end up killing one person per million of affected people, they slept well. They certainly did not know who that unfortunate victim would be. But, suppose, I would ask them, your assessment was wrong and many people died instead of one. My question puzzled them. They believed in their mathematical models. They also had confidence in the data of the regulated industry.

Other experts, however, were not so diplomatic. As my friendship with them gained ground, they gradually revealed to me the black hole surrounding the government's regulation of chemicals, especially poisons used in farming, timber plantations, lawns, and homes. Reading their memos, briefings, studies, and reports undid any confidence I might have had the government and the scientific community protected our health and the environment. The scientific evidence has been clear for decades. The chemical sprays of the farmers and timber companies are dangerous to all life. They are biocides.

Second, the evidence I gleaned from my colleagues' papers went all the way to mid-twentieth century when this country strongly endorsed the industrialization of everything. The fifties was also the dangerous time of the Cold War.

Add the fear of the Cold War to the uprooting of the family farmers for giant farms, and to the introduction of chemical warfare in agricultural production, and the result has been untenable. I describe pesticide spraying as chemical warfare because it is chemical warfare. Pesticides come from chemical warfare agents or are closely related to them.

In this reality, either the government would intervene to undo the giant wrongs in rural America or the government would cover-up these wrongs under the industry propaganda of science and modernization. Land grant universities, which had invented farm industrialization and pesticides, have been siding with the government and the industry.

This gigantic cover-up is the context for the continuing onslaught on the Earth and us. After all, how does one describe the annual ritual of millions of supposedly educated farmers drenching the land with millions of tons of neurotoxins and carcinogens? This land is not on another planet. This land gives us our food.

Like barbarians we play with science, but we are unwilling to take it seriously.

EPA and the rest of the government largely exist to protect the industry and the polluters. Our laws are stranded with loopholes for arbitrary and capricious acts of corporations. And the scientific establishment overlooks scientific evidence pollution is unraveling ecosystems and societies.

Global warming is proof positive for these insane policies. But even more fundamental than global warming is the ceaseless poisoning of our water and food with pesticides. The reason is simple. If we refuse to end our own attacks against ourselves, how on Earth are we going to stop global warming, a calamity some decades away?

An example of how this corruption governs our society comes from a woman from Oregon. This woman is from Florence, Oregon. This is a small beautiful town wedged between the Siuslaw National Forest and the Pacific Ocean.

On March 19, 2014, this Oregon woman wrote a letter to Joelle Gore of the coastal programs of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a federal agency in Silver Spring, Maryland. Her letter is on the Internet but her name has been erased.

She said her passion was to protect the purity of drinking water. She was one of the founders of "a local community group that worked doggedly to protect our drinking water source, the North Florence Dunal Aquifer." She admits she served the public interest all her life as "an employee, elected official, and community volunteer."

Yet, timber companies, and their unrelenting spraying of weed killers, have had the final say. "Local salmon runs have been devastated from nonpoint pollution from logging and development... there will be no Coho [salmon] returning to Munsel Creek three years from now," she wrote.

Even more harmful than killing the local salmon was the poisoning of the drinking water of Florence. She said Oregon's bureaucratic half measures on water pollution were "a MONUMENTAL FAILURE." "After countless studies, reports and lawsuits, decades of public hearings, deliberations, and governmental 'paper' actions, our drinking water is still, essentially, unprotected from nonpoint pollution," she wrote.

She blamed politics and profits for the environmental crime of water pollution in Florence.

"Thousands of coastal residents," she said, "currently face the prospect of drinking water laced with fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides and sediment."