Bush, Our Anti-POPs President?
It is time for a vacation from spending day after day, night after night, frightened by the Bush administration, and by expending money, time and energy opposing virtually everything it sends down the autobahn. Switch to the Other Side. Let's support Bush! There is a way. Who would have thought?
Start slowly. Visualize banners and bumper stickers saying "Support Bush in His Stand Against POPs!" Imagine designs showing the green Earth Flag crossed in solidarity with the Stars 'n' Bars. Consider: we are either with Bush on this, or we are against him. Or think of it this way: We are either with industries that harm our health and kill us, or we are against them. No need to flip a coin to decide.
POPs are Persistent Organic Pollutants -- toxic, cancer-causing industrial substances that have contaminated our environment and brought death, disease and even extinction to the planet. There are many of them but, just over a year ago, more than 120 countries signed the Stockholm Treaty to phase-out the twelve worst of the worst POPs, the "Dirty Dozen". Amazingly, the United States -- this administration -- signed the treaty! Interestingly, the mainstream media did not trumpet this event to show what a concerned, environmentally conscientious administration we have in the land, despite so many indications to the contrary.
The dozen initially targeted POPs are furans, PCBs, hexachlorbenzene, Mirex, heptachlor, DDT, Dieldrin, Chlordane, Toxaphane, Aldrin, Endrin and, last but not least, dioxin. Dioxin, the worst of the worst, is an unwanted by-product of manufacture, processing and burning of chlorine, developed by Dow years ago from common table salt. There is no safe dose. It is bioaccumulative in fatty tissues and has been indicted for being a cause of breast cancer and a host of other pathologies. Dioxin is the central element of such nightmares as Love Canal, Times Beach and Agent Orange. Even the U.S., belatedly and much to the displeasure of the chlorine industries, classified it a Known Human Carcinogen, the worst level. Not making this determination would have been equivalent to, say, claiming that bullets didn't make holes in people.
Others on this POPs list have been banned for use in the U.S. and elsewhere, though some are still made in the U.S. for export. Some, like DDT, are still used overseas legally and illegally. Some of this returns to the U.S. in import crops, including tobacco, in the still-existent "Circle of Poison". Apparently, plans to use DDT-sniffing dogs to prevent this threat to U.S. health security ran into a glitch when the dogs died.
Chlorine is utterly non-essential. Environmentalist Barry Commoner wrote that, except for a very rare medical photographic process, every use of chlorine, for water purification, plastics, fuel refining, bleaching, cleansers, pharmaceuticals, synthetic fabrics, etc., could be replaced with benign alternatives. The only reason chlorine remains cheap, and therefore profitable to industry, is that the powerful chlorine cartel has evaded responsibility, liabilities, criminal prosecution and often even exposure for all the harms it has caused. The public, thanks to a complicit regulatory system, has paid the costs financially and by earth-wide health and environmental damages.
Chlorine is a significant part of most petroleum, petrochemical, pesticide, plastics, pharmaceutical, paper, packaging and other industries. Note that a lot of these industries could use hemp as a benign substitute for chlorine, and eliminate the need for it almost entirely. Fuels, plastics, paper and packaging can be derived from hemp, a plant that needs no pesticides, and a paper source that needs no bleach or forest destruction. Processing and disposal of hemp products would produce no industrial toxins, and certainly no dioxins. The trouble with the sensible direction is that it, like most sensible choices, would cut into pesticide profits for Big Oil and Big Pharmaceuticals. It would spread the wealth to farmers and farm communities. It would make farmlands economically viable for agriculture, thus keeping sprawl, highway development and automobile proliferation at bay. It would also provide a good example of non-toxic agriculture with all the healthy farm workers, downwind neighbors and local wildlife which would make the toxic industries, including waste disposal, look bad, to say the least, by comparison.
However, the Bush League signed the POPs Treaty. This is astounding. It may be read as signing a Death Warrant for Big Chlorine! It is odd that we never heard big or small complaints about this betrayal from Bush supporters in big oil, pharms, plastics and the rest of the chlorine cartel. Are they in on some big 'wink-wink' scheme here? They appear to not be worried that they will have to abandon their precious chlorine and, perhaps even more economically-damaging, face liabilities for past and current dioxin damages to every human. Are investors dumping chlorine stocks and flocking to alternatives? Stock market news doesn't indicate this. What's going on? How can dioxin, which only comes from man-made chlorine, be slated for a global phase-out yet the chlorine industry rolls on as if nothing (except its toxic/carcinogenic waste) is on the wind?
Of course, as with all things Dubya, it could be a fraud. Bush could have signed the POPs Treaty to regain some credibility after his notorious nose-thumbing at other international environmental,human-rights and health related treaties. Perhaps he knew that the day will never come when a chlorine-drenched U.S. Congress would ratify such a treaty. The Bush League also knows that the U.S. can blackmail other countries in numerous ways to dissuade them from any signs of disrespect to the godfathers of the chlorine cartel, especially Big Oil. Bush might also suspect that the chlorine-bleached newspaper industry in the U.S. isn't about to report about how health-damaging its own materials are, in every step from production to disposal.
Forget for the moment about whether or not Bush was actually democratically elected. He signed the Stockholm Treaty, so it's fair to assume that this is war. Our duty to our country demands that we take him at his word, that these industrial substances must be eliminated -- wiped from the face of the earth. We must stand firm in our resolve to support him in his time of need to do all possible to convince Congress to Ratify the Stockholm Treaty, since, apparently, Mr. Bush hasn't yet found the time in his busy schedule to do so himself. It is certainly terrorizing that such toxins and carcinogens have been poisoning us for so long and continue to do so. Therefore, we can view this as part of the War on Terror. Stop the POPs!
One way to enter the fray is to first note that eight of the Dirty Dozen POPs are or have been tobacco pesticides and cigarette contaminants ... keeping in mind that dioxin, the Top POP, is not a pesticide or other product itself but is a by-product of anthropogenic (man-made) chlorine. That's a whopping three quarters of the worst industrial poisons on earth being parts of the so-called "smoking" (of what?) issue. Satan's tobacco plant is not on the list. Three of the pesticides, Aldrin, Endrin and Dieldrin, are from the kitchens of Shell Oil. Unless the chlorine-bleached, oil-advertising newspapers forgot to report this, neither CEOs of Shell or the other manufacturers have yet been subpoenaed to testify at any hearings on "smoking related" liability cases.
Some environmental groups are on the POPs case but, due perhaps to lack of public support and encouragement, they are reluctant to mention that so many POPs are part of the notorious, widely condemned, globally demonized cigarette industry. These groups have never explained why, in the area of cigarettes, they ignore the industries they oppose. Environmental, health and toxics activists don't have to lift a finger or spend a cent making the case to the public that these processed, multi-ingredient cigarettes are Products From Hell. Corporate media did all that work already. All they need to do is apply scientific, medical and journalistic integrity to point out A) just what a typical cigarette is (and it ain't just tobacco by many a mile); B) that tobacco or any other natural plant, incinerated or not, is incapable of causing many of the effects said to be caused by typical cigarettes; and C) that dioxins are already well-known to cause such effects.
The point here is to support Bush's War on POPs by demanding an immediate ban on chlorine contamination of tobacco products, the most deadly source of dioxin exposure, and all other products besides. It's past time for mere condemnation of officials for not warning consumers about this. How can they say, "Warning: Contains U.S. Government-Approved Cancer-Causing, Immune-Suppressing Industrial Adulterants"? It's time for an independent criminal investigation into how this stuff got to be secretly in mass-produced cigarettes for so many decades, and it's time for a Prohibition of this industrial threat. No chlorinated tobacco pesticides; no chlorine-bleached paper; no chlorine-contaminated non-tobacco agricultural additives; no chlorine-contaminated industrial waste cellulose used for "tobacco substitutes", and no chlorine-contaminated ingredients of any kind. After all, they produce dioxins in cigarette smoke, and the United States stands united (except for complicit industrial interests) against this deadly element.
There are hundreds of groups actively fighting the cigarette manufacturers. Certainly they will endorse all efforts to expose and indict those who made typical cigarettes so inevitably deadly, and who so coldly experimented on millions of consumers without any required Informed Consent. If groups won't endorse, it's a good bet that they are founded and funded by elements of the chlorine, chlorine investing, and chlorine insuring industries, unwittingly supporting them, or craftily capitalizing on a popular cause. We need to work instead to keep the focus on the underlying industrial chemicals, not just tobacco.
Senators and House members must be called on to support Mr. Bush in this Historic War on Chlorine and Dioxin. They must agree to ratify the U.S.-signed POPs treaty to eliminate this threat to all Americans, be they in the United States, Canada or Latin America, and be they human or wildlife. If Congress members refuse to ratify, they must be publicized as not being in support of the one they call "Mr. President". Considering the harms dioxin has done to untold millions of U.S. citizens, one could claim that to ignore this threat is downright Anti-American.
For more information on the War on POPs, see:
- The U.N. Environment Programme's POPs Page
- Pesticide Action Network North American
- The EPA's Pesticide Page
- The International POPs Elimination Network
- And the Stockholm Convention Home Page
John Jonik is a cartoonist and activist living in Philadelphia.