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Loraine Boyle

Loraine Boyle

Posted: March 1, 2010 04:45 PM

Through The Looking Glass, or, the Two-Headed Cow

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Everything I've read about Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland has been putting me in a state of high anticipation. Until, that is, this morning's headlines made me feel as if I were already down the rabbit hole. The New York Times led with an article about how the Supreme Court has diluted the Clean Water Act by requiring strict adherence to the Act's language limiting it to pollutants discharged into "navigable waters". So the little creek that runs by a big farm is an OK spot to dump leftover pesticides or wetlands in a particular state are a fine place to discharge dangerous chemicals. So what if those poisons eventually find their way into watersheds and reservoirs? The Supreme Court doesn't care.
It seems to me as if we are already in Wonderland with rulings like these. And we can thank lobbying efforts by misleadingly named groups like the Waters Advocacy Coalition, funded by industry groups who would prefer not to be restrained by the Clean Water Act. I guess the American Farm Bureau Federation doesn't care if a couple of cows give birth to two-headed calves because of toxins from farm fertilizers and pesticides. But you'd think the farmers would care if they had children born with birth defects or mental retardation.
Last week in the New York Times Nicholas D. Kristof wrote a column called "Do Toxins Cause Autism?" and the conclusion was that most probably they do contribute to autism and other mental retardation in children. I wonder sometimes if my husband's incurable myeloma could have been triggered by the DDT in use when he was a kid, the lawn chemicals used on our Amagansett property, or the insecticides they used to spray on planes when you went to the tropics. Some people are genetically disposed to getting cancer and so environmental toxins are more deadly to them.
I do feel we are on the wrong side of the looking glass since we seemed to be at the mercy of powerful industry groups and a conservative-leaning Supreme Court. We are the victims here of a system that is hopelessly out of sync with our health and well-being. Perhaps people struggling to find a job or make ends meet to take care of their families, don't have the time or energy to speak up about environmental issues. That's understandable, but aren't our elected representatives supposed to be fighting the battle to protect the health of all Americans? Then again, seeing what's going on in Congress over health care, why would I ask such a stupid rhetorical question?
Obama won the election in a big part through the power of the internet--picking up support from the proverbial "little guy" who was not previously engaged in politics. Somehow I hope that the environmental movement can kick into higher gear to fight these interest groups which now threaten to choke our waterways once again with garbage and poison. An environmental engineer once told me that there are a few corrupt developers who propose building housing on toxic sites because the land is cheap. I'm not sure it's true but given the current climate of unbridled greed and self-interest, it doesn't seem too far-fetched. Fall down the rabbit hole and end up in a pile of poison. That's where we're heading unless the people's voice gets louder on the side of cleaning up.
Unfortunately, we're also dealing with the lunatic fringe who shout down any government regulation on the grounds of some ill-conceived idea of individual freedom. It's OK to walk into a Starbucks with a gun hanging from your holster but not ok to pass a rule that would prevent the dumping of toxic waste into our drinking water. I can't wait to see Tim Burton's new film to escape for a few hours from our current upside down reality into Alice's Wonderland.