As Sen. Bernie Sanders (CJR, 8/26/19) has recently noted, corporate ownership of media interferes with the core societal function of the press: reporting and investigating key issues at the intersection of public need and governance. And nowhere is that more critical than when it comes to climate. Due to their corporate conflicts of interest, trusted news authorities have diverted us from our primary responsibility—assuring a viable habitat for our children and grandchildren.
Whether food production entails acres of mono-crops, livestock shuttled through assembly lines or orderly tracks of plastic pipelines in factory-scale hydroponics spaces, streamlined production techniques tempt food producers to improve on nature, without necessarily assessing the long-term health or environmental costs. Even an apparently benign innovation, like hydroponics, may convey unexpected downsides.
Donning a baseball cap doesn’t make millionaire Donald Trump a man of the people. Nor did playing the saxophone make Bill Clinton the "first black president.” His rooty-tooting effectively obscured his actual record, stripping the social safety net and incarcerating record numbers of blacks in private prisons, setting up what Michelle Alexander calls the New Jim Crow and what Angela Davis calls the prison-industrial complex, a prime contributor to the recent violence against black people.
A gas explosion leveled two buildings in New York’s East Village this past week, with two neighboring structures damaged, one still at risk for collapse, and 22 people injured, four of them severely. The fire raged from early afternoon into the next morning with more than 250 firefighters responding. Just over a year ago, a gas explosion leveled two buildings in Harlem, killing eight people. The National Transportation Safety Board has not yet released its conclusions as to what caused the Harlem fire.
A speaker at an event I recently attended asked why U.S. food companies put butylated hydroxyltoluene, a food preservative and endocrine disruptor, in cereal sold stateside, while in Europe the same companies formulate the same product without BHT.
When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke recently at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington DC, she said that if she had to pick one case to undo, her choice would be the 2010 Citizens United ruling. Two years after that decision, one poll found that 62% of Americans also opposed it. Among progressives, there is even broader consensus that it represented a sea change for democracy.
Wilma Subra has studied the biological impacts of industrial and naturally occurring chemicals for over 25 years. When chemical spills or toxic industrial releases affect unsuspecting communities, Subra, a microbiologist and chemist, often gets called in to investigate. Her experiences have taught her that the contamination of communities and waterways is just part of doing business for multinational corporations and it is becoming a significant, growing byproduct of our current, poorly regulated industrial practices.
Phrases like, “natural gas,” “cleaner than coal,” “energy independence,” and “radical environmentalists” were deployed to create a popular mandate for shale gas development, and to discount fracking critics. While it seems likely that gas-industry spin doctors honed these deft marketing terms prior to the nationwide explosion in fracking, neither reporters nor the public have been privy to the behind-the-scenes machinations, until now.
If nothing else, the recent chemical spill in West Virginia reveals the extent to which elected officials go along with powerful industries at serious cost to public health and the environment. As can be seen in the abject 40-year failure to regulate toxic chemicals like the one contaminating the West Virginia water, U.S. policy (from the national level all the way down to the state and local level) is to accept at face value industry safety assurances and economic projections, without further investigation to protect the public health or pocketbook.
Just one year ago, New York’s Governor Cuomo hovered on the brink of issuing guidelines to frack New York State. But in March 2013, mounting public demand for a comprehensive health assessment prompted Commissioner of Public Health Nirav Shah to hit the pause button. Since then, there have been no fracking guidelines issued and no green light for fracking in New York, as Shah’s investigation continues. But that doesn’t mean fracking concerns are over. In fact, in New York (and New England) fracking and its infrastructures remain one step ahead of public notice in scary ways.