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Mercury in U.S. lakes; cyanide in India – trust the CEOs!


On August 24, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared that more than “one-third of the nation’s lakes and nearly one-fourth of its rivers contain fish that may be contaminated with mercury, dioxin, PCB and pesticide pollution.”

Though Leavitt claimed that mercury emissions “from human activities” had dropped over the last decade, EPA nevertheless posted mercury advisories for fish in 44 states. In addition, Montana and Washington (major fishing states) warned their citizens of possible widespread contamination of river and lake fish. Fly fishermen, in other words, can catch as many bass and trout as they want, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) alerted people not to eat more than one six ounce portion a week of fish in U.S. sweet waters.

Corporate executives know that mercury and PCBs seep out in the processes of burning hazardous and medical waste and that they end up in rivers and lakes.

Leavitt sounded serious about the pollution issue. But his boss, George W. Bush, remains less than zealous over regulating the polluters. Bush has warm feelings toward CEOs – especially those who contribute to the campaign coffers. He respects and trusts these virtuous and very religious company bosses; ergo, they should regulate themselves.

The President’s optimism appears in his “Utility Mercury Reductions” plan, a characteristically misnamed project that actually increases the possibilities for polluters and frees them from the responsibility of cleaning up the mercury they engendered. According to the Sierra Club’s January 30, 2004, Watch, the White House plan would permit three times more mercury to get dumped over the next decades.

Under Bush’s premise, that corporate executives represent the highest levels of public morality and therefore should police their own environmental behavior, Willie Sutton (the 20th Century’s most colorful bank robber) should be named trustworthy enough to guard the bank at night.Bush adheres to the corporate publicity apparatus’ dogma: government is bad and the private sector good.

Leading business executives routinely conspire to rip off the stockholders and the public. Their public relations teams simultaneously create halos over their heads. The 19th Century Robber Barons became “Industrial Statesmen” while the gonifs of Enron and Halliburton merited the highest level access to political power. Dick Cheney met with these larcenous executives to plan the nation’s energy policy.

Yet, adding up the business hanky panky with the environmental destruction one arrives at an obvious conclusion: corporate executives understand that corporate profits come before protecting the environment or people. Bhopal, India provides a dramatic illustration of how corporate America responded to a 9/11 size catastrophe.

In addition, hundreds of thousands suffered from diseases related to the deadly chemical’s effect on the human organism. Dr. Nalok Banerjee, of India’s Center for Rehabilitation Studies, found levels of respiratory ailments, eye and gastronomical disorders at almost four times the levels in other Indian areas.

They said, in effect, “to hell with those people. They had the misfortune of sucking cyanide into their lungs.” That’s how the cookie crumbles in the Third World. Unlike the fiends who attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the Indian managers of Union Carbide in Bhopal did not set out with malice to slaughter thousands of civilians. Likewise, those CEOs that ordered toxic wastes dumped in rivers and lakes did not intend to make trout sick and uneatable or cause health problems in humans. The disasters came as by-products of routine corporate behavior.

In 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez struck a reef in Alaska, spilling more than 11 million gallons of crude oil, the largest in U.S. history. The spill killed birds and animals, and threatened the delicate food chain that supported the region’s fishing industry.

In Nigeria, Shell, Mobil, Chevron and other major oil companies colluded with corrupt governments to stop protests in the Niger Delta where farmers claimed, with compelling evidence, that drilling operations have made them sick and ruined their land and water supply. Similar oil company activities have brought devastation to indigenous people in Ecuador. Throughout the third world, CEOs have ordered actions that have led to death and environmental destruction. Have these and thousands of more examples not taught the Bushies the obvious lesson: regulate?

This indifferent attitude on environment has led the Administration to coddle Al-Carbide (Dow Chemical) rather than insist it compensates the victims of Bhopal and cleans up its cyanide mess. The media, by not reporting follow ups on the Bhopal disaster, toed the White House line.

As far as the 15,000 dead Indians – well, in the world of global production, cyanides happen!

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