Saturday, February 27, 2010

CNN news report

an article on Environmental Justice in Louisiana from yesterday's CNN newsfeed.

Toxic towns: People of Mossville 'are like an experiment'

By David S. Martin, CNN Medical Senior Producer
  • For decades, Mossville residents have complained about health problems
  • Community suspects 14 chemical plants play a role in cancer and diseases in area
  • Group asked for relocation of residents, free health clinic and lower emissions

Coming soon on CNN: Dr. Sanjay Gupta investigates pollution and health in Mossville, Louisiana, and across the country.

Westlake, Louisiana (CNN) -- Gather current and former Mossville, Louisiana, residents in a room and you're likely to hear a litany of health problems and a list of friends and relatives who died young.

"I got cancer. My dad had cancer. In fact, he died of cancer. It's a lot of people in this area who died of cancer," says Herman Singleton Jr., 51, who also lost two uncles and an aunt to cancer.

Singleton and many others in this predominantly African-American community in southwest Louisiana suspect the 14 chemical plants nearby have played a role in the cancer and other diseases they say have ravaged the area.

For decades, Mossville residents have complained about their health problems to industry, and to state and federal agencies. Now with a new Environmental Protection Agency administrator outspoken about her commitment to environmental justice, expectations are growing.

"I'm pretty hopeful now," say Debra Ramirez, 55, who grew up in Mossville and who lost a sister at 45 of sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease. "I do see her trying to do the right thing."

Lisa Jackson, a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, and the first African-American administrator of the EPA, this year listed environmental justice as one of her seven priorities.

And the EPA held a meeting in Mossville last month formally kicking off a study designed to see if the community qualifies as a Superfund site, reserved for the most polluted places in the United States. Superfund site designation would bring federal funding for cleaning up Mossville.

Mossville Environmental Action Now (MEAN), the local environmental group, has asked government and industry to relocate residents who want to leave, offer a free health clinic and lower emissions from the plants. Superfund relocates residents only as a last resort.

"There are people that are getting sick; there are people who are dying because of what is happening in our community. These chemicals are killing us. They will destroy Mossville if nothing happens," says Dorothy Felix of MEAN.

Thousands of pounds of carcinogens such as benzene and vinyl chloride are released from the facilities near Mossville each year, according to the EPA's Toxic Release Inventory.

Chemical boom

The industrial boom began in and around Mossville during World War II. Vinyl chloride makers, refineries, a coal-fired energy plant and chemical plants now operate in what was once rural country, rich in agriculture, fishing and hunting.

Robert Bullard, author of "Dumping in Dixie," says it's no surprise industry chose Mossvillle, an unincorporated community founded by African Americans in the 1790s.

"What happens is zoning becomes very political, and what happens is people with power, with lawyers and elected officials who can fight for them and make decisions for them, oftentimes will get things placed away from them and placed in locations where other people live" Bullard says.

Without the power, Bullard says, African-Americans have borne the brunt of living near industry, landfills and hazardous facilities.

"African Americans are more than 79 percent more likely to live in communities where there are dangerous facilities that pose health threats," says Bullard, director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University.

Bullard says Jackson has breathed new life into environmental justice since she took office last year. During the previous eight years, he says, "environmental justice was non-existent or invisible."

Mossville fears

Over time, Mossville residents became worried emissions from the plants were affecting their health.

Those fears heightened in 1998 when the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry tested the blood of 28 Mossville residents and found dioxin levels three times the national average.

Dioxins are carcinogens. Volcanoes and forest fires create dioxins naturally. They are also released during vinyl chloride production, at waste incinerators and by wood processing facilities.

Residents were retested for dioxins in 2001, with similar results, but in 2006 the agency concluded that residents did not face a health risk, an assessment echoed by local industry.

"The emissions from the plants are within the standards set by the various agencies, and they are of a level that they have no ill effects on the local community," says Larry DeRoussel, executive director of the Lake Area Industry Alliance.

DeRoussel speaks for local industry. CNN invited all 14 companies to speak on camera. None of them accepted; some said interviewing DeRoussel would suffice.

DeRoussel points to statistics showing the cancer rate in Calcasieu Parish, the local county, is not significantly higher than the state average.

But Wilma Subra, a chemist from New Iberia, Louisiana, who has worked with Mossville residents, says the statistics are misleading because the parish covers such a large area, more than 1,000 square miles, and more than 180,000 residents. Mossville is a tiny fraction of that, with about 375 homes adjacent to the chemical plants.

"The people of Mossville are like an experiment. They know that they have high levels of dioxin in their blood, and they're allowed to continue to live there and be exposed," says Subra, recipient of the MacArthur genius grant in 1999 for her environmental work with communities.

After the EPA announced its Superfund investigation, Felix says she's hopeful for the first time in years Mossville will be saved.

"This is the first time I've had a little hope in EPA," Felix says.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sierra Club, Marcellus Shale, Fairness

From this morning's NPR broadcast . . . . The national Sierra Club sees natural gas development of the Marcellus Shale as one part of an overall strategy to reduce carbon emissions of coal burning. The report this morning includes interviews with local activists who oppose the drilling because of concerns about fracking and who are upset at the group's national leadership:
"Some local chapters of environmental groups find themselves battling their national leadership over issues like natural gas. The national groups see natural gas as a less-harmful alternative to coal. But local groups fear the damage that gas production could bring to their fresh water and landscapes."
Listen to the whole thing and read the transcript at:

The part of the interview that caught MY eye (transcript excerpt included below) was the following exchange with the Executive Director of the Sierra Club who criticizes the apparent NIMBY attitude of the local Sierra Club chapter's anti-fracking stance:

Mr. CARL POPE (Executive Director, Sierra Club): Well, it has caused friction and it's going to cause friction.

SHOGREN: Pope says the Sierra Club's leadership decided it had to come up with a practical prescription for how the country could slash greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr. POPE: There are people who don't agree with the policy, because they think the Sierra Club's role should just be to oppose anything that has any environmental consequences. They don't think our role should be to say, okay, here's where we think we should get our energy.

SHOGREN: Pope says creating electricity from natural gas creates much less of the air pollution that makes people sick than coal does, and drilling for natural gas doesn't damage the land nearly as much as mountaintop coal mining has in Appalachia. It's destroyed peaks, forests and streams there. That's why the Sierra Club is promoting natural gas.

Mr. POPE: We see it as the cleanest of the fossil fuels.

SHOGREN: He's not surprised by the reaction of Sierra Club members who live above the Marcellus field.

Mr. POPE: What's happening with the new discoveries of natural gas is that parts of the country that historically didn't pay any environmental bill for energy production because they didn't produce energy are going to start paying a bigger share of the bill and people don't like that.

I think this last statement by Pope is fascinating. In essence he is making a type of justice argument that New York state (and elsewhere) energy consumers have not previously paid the full environmental price for decades of their energy use. Now, he argues, it's time for people living in the Marcellus shale region to "ante up," so to speak--in other words, it's only fair that people at the local level may have to bear the burden of environmental development that yields national and international benefits.

Thoughts? does Pope's argument make sense within an environmental justice perspective? within a Rawlsian fairness perspective?

By the way, the comments section accompanying the transcript are even more fascinating.

Opposition to democracy

Ran across the following graphic while doing some digging on the theme of "democracy." This map accompanies the wikipedia entry on democracy under the section of "Opposition to Democracy."

The caption reads:
"This is one attempted measurement of democracy called the Polity IV data series. This map shows the data presented in the polity IV data series report as of 2003. The lightest countries get a perfect score of 10, while the darkest countries (Saudi Arabia and Qatar), considered the least democratic, score -10."
I had no idea there even was a Polity IV data series. . . .

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Superstition evades "justice"... for now

The superstitions of the world are only as valuable as they are not harmful. China is full of cultural superstition that is both poetic and asinine. The plight of the tiger is the example I wish to offer up for discussion in connection with a previous post about cultural imperialism and the superstitious views that condone eradicating homosexuals. As you will see both are indiscriminately killed by certain societies because of superstition.

The superstition and unfounded beliefs in Asia have led to the almost complete demise of one species all because a people have been ingrained with a false idea that ingesting a tiger will give you its power and strength. The tiger bone wine is thought to be the elixir of life, and tiger penis soup is a supposed aphrodesiac. Eyeballs are thought to cure convulsions; whiskers are thought to protect against bullets. Sitting on a tiger skin can prevent fevers caused by evil spirits, and the list goes on and on.

Should the "world" intervene to stop this blind massacre? Jim posted earlier about the possibility of cultural imperialism with regard to the anti-homosexual legislation in Uganda and Obama's condemnation of the idea. The very notion that this act of condemnation is a form of cultural imperialism is absolutely absurd and aligns Obama's activism with a term that is considered pejorative. The idea that homosexuals should be killed was supplanted into the minds of the Ugandans by homophobic priests and chaucerian frauds. These priests of the U.S. are the perpetrators of the worst kind of "cultural" imperialism, religion.

Obama's subtle condemnation of the hideous acts in Uganda is a necessary step to stop an evil that is being done in the name of superstition. Any act that causes harm under the guise of any and all superstitions should be condemned, and those credulous victims should be brought back to the world of reason.

Thus I wish to state that it is just as necessary and obligatory to condemn the slaughter of gays as is the slaughter of tigers becuase both are founded in ridiculous superstition and myth that causes nothing but harm, and has deluded millions of people with false promises and pseudoscience.

Is the article below cultural imperialism? Are we stepping on the feet of traditional chinese medicine? Do we owe any respect to cultures based in superstition that cause actual death in the name of religion or tradition? Ofcourse NOT!

On the Brink of Extinction: Call to Close Cruel and Inhumane Tiger Farms
Written by Jace Shoemaker-Galloway

Published on January 28th, 2010

Officials from 13 nations are meeting to discuss conservation efforts to save the endangered tiger. Officials from countries where tigers still roam - Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam - are taking part in the Asia Ministerial Conference (AMC) on Tiger Conservation. The conference runs from January 27 to January 30, 2010, in Thailand.

The World Bank and Global Tiger Initiative are urging the closing of tiger farms. Tiger farms, located primarily in China, also exist in other parts of the world. Despite a 1993 ban on the domestic tiger trade in China, the demand for tiger parts is still high and tiger farms continue to thrive. The domestic tiger trade harvests skin, bones, organs and other body parts often used in traditional medicines or as aphrodisiacs.

Private tiger farm investors have been putting heavy pressure on the government to lift the ban. While farm owners claim that tiger farms help reduce the illegal trade of tiger parts, others disagree. Many believe that tiger farms are not only cruel and inhumane, but actually encourage the illegal trade. Despite the plea from tiger farm investors, China recently announced the country will ensure stricter regulation and monitoring of the captive breeding farms and stricter enforcement on the illegal trade.

Listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, tigers, Panthera tigris, are the largest of all cats. Sadly, three subspecies have become extinct – the Bali, the Caspian and Javan. At the beginning of the 20th century, it is estimated 100,000 wild tigers existed. Sadly, the numbers have dropped dramatically due to poaching and loss of habitat. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), it is estimated that as few as 3,200 tigers exist in the wild today. It is believed that more than 5,000 tigers are living in captivity in farms in China. In other words, it is estimated that more tigers live in captivity on tiger farms in China than exist in the wild.

Warning: Disturbing Video:
While the Year of the Tiger begins on February 14th, we must work quickly to save these magnificent creatures from extinction.

Climate Scientists Behaving Badly (series)

Just ran across the following series of articles by Nick Shackel on the recent controversy over climate scientists' internal documents being leaked to the press and evidence that scientists have not been completely honest in their pronouncements about climate change.


"Global warming hawks claim the moral high-ground, claim to speak for what is right against grubby self-interest. It behooves those who take the high ground to behave well themselves. Do they?

"Data and email exchanges between climate scientists have been stolen from the servers at University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit and published online. Whether the data or content of these emails tell us anything about global warming is not an issue I am concerned with. Nor, for that matter, am I concerned with bad behaviour in the sense of global warming hawks being rude about global warming skeptics. The bad behaviour of interest is epistemic bad behaviour, and on this matter I think the emails tell us quite a lot. Furthermore, the Climatic Research Unit is one of the world’s leading players and so the behaviour of its members tells us something about the epistemic state of climate science.

"On the whole I would have to say that the attitude of the hawks towards the lay public has been high handed. They do not think we can be trusted to form our own opinions about what is happening and what should be done about it, and they think this despite the very great success they have had in convincing us that the climate is warming and that humans have caused it. One must wonder, therefore, why they have this attitude.

"Part of the answer is that they are, in a certain limited respect, right. Climate scientists are experts and we should rightly give greater weight to their testimony within the realm of their expertise. But that is only the beginning of the matter. We are not required simply to submit to experts, nor can experts expect us to become experts before we can have a view and even disagree with them. There are significant constraints on the weight we should give to expert testimony that depend on our assessment of their testimonial reliability, and since we can’t assess them on the content of their testimony we must make use of other information: information about their epistemic character and information about how reliable expertise is in particular and in general.

epistemic character

"Since Francis Bacon rejected the Idols of the Mind, science has demanded that its practitioners hold themselves to the highest standard of epistemic character. Amongst the epistemic virtues required are objectivity, impartiality, disinterestedness, restraint in not going beyond ones knowledge, fairness to opposing views, intellectual competence, imagination, originality, honest dealing in the conduct of enquiry, sincerity of testimony and honest dealing with opponents. In addition, it is essential to science qua natural philosophy that basic evidence is publicly available—hence ruling out as evidence claims that originate in special insight or revelation not granted to us all. It is this that imposes on scientists the obligation to keep records of methods and original data and make such records freely available.

"How high is the standard of epistemic character that hawks hold themselves to? I fear it is not as high as it ought to be. Even prior to the leaked emails we had evidence of failings in these virtues. The emails give yet more evidence and also show how little hold the enumerated epistemic virtues have on the professional milieu of climate science. Indeed, it appears that within climate science, epistemic vice is practised without shame, and with little awareness that the vicious practices are vicious. In part 2 I will run over that evidence."

He is up to the fifth installment, which was just posted today (Feb 20). Here are the links to each installment:


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

William Nordhaus on climate change policy

Hi everyone,
here is a link to an article by William Nordhaus about climate change policies and their economic implications. His conclusion about Kyoto:
"Climate change is a complex phenomenon, subject to great uncertainties, with changes in our knowledge occurring virtually daily. Climate change is unlikely to be catastrophic in the near term, but it has the potential for very serious damages in the long run. There are big economic stakes in designing efficient approaches to slow global warming and to ensure that the economic environment is friendly to innovation. The current international approach in the Kyoto Protocol will be economically costly and have virtually no impact on climate change. In my view, the best approach is also one that is relatively simple—internationally harmonized carbon taxes. Economists and environmentalists will undoubtedly continue to debate the proper level of the carbon price. But all who believe that this is a serious global issue can agree that the current price—zero—is too low and should be promptly corrected."
If you're really interested, you can download a prepublication copy of his book A Question of Balance (Yale University Press, 2008) from his website at -- pay attention to Chapter 9 on discounting.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Bio-fuels and EJ

A number of us had an interesting conversation after class on Thursday about bio-fuels and in particular, bio-diesel. A link to the following article just got passed along on the International Society for Environmental Ethics (ISEE) listserv, wonder what you all might think about it. The group advocates for a "future without global capitalism," and the final paragraph emphasizes an environmental justice perspective:

"In our Manifesto of Revolutionary Solutions we reject the idea of mitigation and adaptation to climate change, within the existing capitalist economic structures. It is damaging the poorest and most powerless in society, not protecting them from the effects of climate change – and it is doing it without making any significant reductions in emissions. An alternative system of energy production and land ownership is urgently needed."

Anyway, here is the full piece:

Forests under threat in carbon offsets scandal

Campaigners fear a new surge of forest destruction as a result of both the reactionary Copenhagen Accord and a new European Union bio-fuels directive.

It seems that EU member states will be forced to accept palm oil grown in plantations planted on cleared forest – whether they like it or not.

The EU is committed to a target of 10% of all road transport fuel being based on renewable energy by 2020, and a new directive claims that palm oil plantations can be classified as forest, and meet so-called “sustainable standards”.

According to Rainforest Rescue, razing rainforest to plant oil palm would not count as a change in land use under the new directive, which also says that “member states may not set additional criteria of their own. They may not exclude biofuels/bioliquids on sustainability grounds where these meet the sustainability criteria laid down in the Directive”.

This is entirely in line with the Copenhagen Accord, the wrecking agreement forced through by powerful nations at last year’s climate conference.

Without a successor to Kyoto the controls on carbon off-setting (weak as they were) will become non-existent. It will lead to large-scale destruction of eco-systems and unprecedented land grabs, as spurious projects are classified as carbon offsets. There will even be carbon credits for tree and crop monocultures and GM soya, planted on cleared rainforest.

Stella Semino from Grupo de Reflexion Rural (Argentina) states:

If these new proposals are agreed upon we will see a massive boost for crop and tree plantations alike which, in the name of ‘climate change mitigation’, will speed up the destruction of forests and other vital ecosystems, the spread of industrial agriculture, and land grabbing against small-farmers, indigenous peoples and forest communities. Industrial monocultures are already a major cause of climate change and their expansion will make it worse.

The problem is even bigger than palm oil – the whole concept of bio-fuels replacing oil is flawed because of the nature of the capitalist system and the system of private land ownership. An example is the development of new oil plants that will grow on so-called “marginal land”.

The Jatropha plant is being grown by Kijani Energy of Canada in Mozambique on land classified as marginal. This very experimental process, with an incredibly toxic plant which can harm farmers as they harvest and crush it, is already being claimed as a biol-fuel breakthrough.

It is reported that Kijani has now purchased 200,000 acres of land in the Thar province of Pakistan for Jatropha cultivation. Local people say that far from being unused land, this area belongs to them, and their centuries old livestock grazing rights are being violated.

In our Manifesto of Revolutionary Solutions we reject the idea of mitigation and adaptation to climate change, within the existing capitalist economic structures. It is damaging the poorest and most powerless in society, not protecting them from the effects of climate change – and it is doing it without making any significant reductions in emissions. An alternative system of energy production and land ownership is urgently needed.

Penny Cole
Environment editor
11 February 2010

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Eco-benefits of 2012 London Olympics?

I thought the film from Jason's group on the Vancouver Olympics was fascinating. As luck has it, here's an email that came through this morning on the environmental history email list about the environmental benefits of the 2012 London Olympics! Let me know if any of you listen to the podcast.

New podcast episode: Environmental History of the 2012 Olympic site: the Lower River Lea
H-NET List for Environmental History [H-ENVIRONMENT@H-NET.MSU.EDU] on behalf of Sowards, Adam [asowards@UIDAHO.EDU]
Sent: Wednesday, February 10, 2010 9:32 AM

From: Jan Oosthoek []
Sent: Wednesday, February 10, 2010 4:09 AM
Subject: New podcast episode: Environmental History of the 2012 Olympic
site: the Lower River Lea

The latest episode of the Exploring Environmental History Podcast
features an interview with Jim Clifford, a doctoral student at York
University in Toronto, about the environmental and social history of
West Ham and the Lower Lea River in east London. This is the site of the
2012 Olympics. The creation of the Olympic park promises the
rehabilitation of the Lower Lea Valley by restoring its eco-system and
revitalising the community of the area. But this is only the latest
development in a long industrial history that is going as far back as
the 11th century. Clifford talks about the industrialisation of the area
and the associated pollution, attempts to clean the river and the area
up and what we can learn from past experience in the light of the
present Olympic developments.

To listen to the podcast, go to the Environmental History Resources
website at:

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes at:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Upcoming Movies of Interest

Tonight!!! The Cove (Click link for more info... described as an "impassioned piece of advocacy filmmaking" and an "Eco-activist documentary"
7:15 pm Willard Straight Hall

February 24 Crude (the"epic story of one of the largest and most controversial environmental lawsuits on the planet")
7 pm Uris Auditorium

I won't be able to make it tonight but would love to go to Crude if anyone wants to accompany me!

Monday, February 8, 2010

No Olympics on Stolen Native Land

in light of the 2010 winter olympics starting this week, check out this video made by green guerrillas youth media tech collective:

Saturday, February 6, 2010

US Military - Worst Polluter in the World?

thought i'd share this recent news. the military is exempted from most environmental regs from what i've heard. i'll do some more digging on that and see what i come up with to share. what is the responsiblity of the u.s in this case? do you buy the sovereign immunity argument?

Island residents sue U.S., saying military made them sick

By Abbie Boudreau and Scott Bronstein,
CNN Special Investigations Unit
February 1, 2010 -- Updated 2103 GMT (0503 HKT)

Hermogenes Marrero, as a young U.S. Marine, was stationed on the island of Vieques nearly 40 years ago.

Vieques was one of Navy's largest firing ranges and weapons testing sites
Thousands of residents say testing has made them seriously ill
Government says under "sovereign immunity," residents have no right to sue
See how residents are coping with illnesses on "Campbell Brown" tonight 8 ET
Hear from residents of Vieques, where thousands of people say U.S. weapons testing has made them seriously ill, on tonight's "Campbell Brown," 8 ET

Vieques, Puerto Rico (CNN) -- Nearly 40 years ago, Hermogenes Marrero was a teenage U.S. Marine, stationed as a security guard on the tiny American island of Vieques, off the coast of Puerto Rico.

Marrero says he's been sick ever since. At age 57, the former Marine sergeant is nearly blind, needs an oxygen tank, has Lou Gehrig's disease and crippling back problems, and sometimes needs a wheelchair.

"I'd go out to the firing range, and sometimes I'd start bleeding automatically from my nose," he said in an interview to air on Monday night's "Campbell Brown."

"I said, 'My God, why am I bleeding?' So then I'd leave the range, and it stops. I come back, and maybe I'm vomiting now. I used to get diarrhea, pains in my stomach all the time. Headaches -- I mean, tremendous headaches. My vision, I used to get blurry."

The decorated former Marine is now the star witness in a multibillion-dollar lawsuit by more than 7,000 residents of this Caribbean island -- about three-quarters of its population -- who say that what the U.S. military did on Vieques has made them sick.

Read: Are Americans being forgotten on Vieques?

For nearly six decades, beginning right after World War II, Vieques was one of the Navy's largest firing ranges and weapons testing sites.

"Inside the base, you could feel the ground -- the ground moving," Marrero said. "You can hear the concussions. You could feel it. If you're on the range, you could feel it in your chest. That's the concussion from the explosion. It would rain, actually rain, bombs. And this would go on seven days a week."

After years of controversy and protest, the Navy left Vieques in 2003. Today, much of the base is demolished, and what's left is largely overgrown. But the lawsuit remains, and island residents want help and compensation for numerous illnesses they say they suffer.

"The people need the truth to understand what is happening to their bodies," said John Eaves Jr., the Mississippi attorney who represents the islanders in the lawsuit.

Because he no longer lives on Vieques, Marrero is not one of the plaintiffs but has given sworn testimony in the case. He said the weapons used on the island included napalm; depleted uranium, a heavy metal used in armor-piercing ammunition; and Agent Orange, the defoliant used on the Vietnamese jungles that was later linked to cancer and other illnesses in veterans.

"We used to store it in the hazardous material area," Marrero said. It was used in Vieques as a defoliant for the fence line.

The military has never acknowledged a link between Marrero's ailments and his time at Vieques, so he receives few disability or medical benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Neither the Navy nor the Justice Department, which is handling the government's defense, would discuss the islanders' lawsuit with CNN.

But Eaves said his clients don't believe that the military has fully disclosed the extent of the contamination on Vieques: "Like uranium was denied, then they admitted it."

Dr. John Wargo, a Yale professor who studies the effects of toxic exposures on human health, says he believes that people on the island are sick because of the Navy's bombing range.

Vieques ... is probably one of the most highly contaminated sites in the world.
--Dr. John Wargo
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Vietnam War
"Vieques, in my experience of studying toxic substances, is probably one of the most highly contaminated sites in the world," he said. "This results from the longevity of the chemical release, the bombs, the artillery shells, chemical weapons, biological weapons, fuels, diesel fuels, jet fuels, flame retardants. These have all been released on the island, some at great intensity."

Wargo is the author of a new book, "Green Intelligence," on how environments and toxic exposure affect human health. He is also expected to testify as an expert witness in the islanders' lawsuit.

He said the chemicals released by the munitions dropped on Vieques can be dangerous to human health and may well have sickened residents or veterans who served on the island.

"In my own mind, I think the islanders experienced higher levels of exposure to these substances than would be experienced in any other environment," Wargo said. "In my own belief, I think the illnesses are related to these exposures."

The effects of those chemicals could include cancer, damage to the nervous, immune and reproductive systems or birth defects, he said.

"This doesn't prove that the exposures caused those specific illnesses," Wargo added. "But it's a pretty convincing story from my perspective."

Since the Navy left the island, munitions it left behind "continue to leak, particularly from the east end of the island," Wargo said.

"My concerns are now predominantly what's happening in the coastal waters, which provide habitat for an array of fish, many species of which are often consumed by the population on the island," he said.

Scientists from the University of Georgia have documented the extent of the numerous unexploded ordinance and bombs that continue to litter the former bomb site and the surrounding waters. The leftover bombs continue to corrode, leaching dangerously high levels of carcinogens, according to researcher James Porter, associate dean of the university's Odum School of Ecology.

The Environmental Protection Agency designated parts of Vieques a Superfund toxic site in 2005, requiring the Navy to begin cleaning up its former bombing range. The service identified many thousands of unexploded munitions and set about blowing them up. But the cleanup effort has further outraged some islanders, who fear that more toxic chemicals will be released.

The U.S. government's response to their lawsuit is to invoke sovereign immunity, arguing that residents have no right to sue it. The government also disputes that the Navy's activities on Vieques made islanders ill, citing a 2003 study by scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found no link.

That study, however, has been harshly criticized by numerous scientists, and the CDC is embarking on a new effort to determine whether residents may have been sickened by the contamination from the Navy range.

Asked whether his duty on the island made him sick, Marrero responds, "Of course it did."

"This is American territory. The people that live here are American," he said. "You hurt someone, you have to take care of that person. And the government's just not doing anything about it."

Friday, February 5, 2010

Inspiration while doing laundry...

Not to take attention away from Jim's post, but earlier today I was doing my laundry and was reminded of our class. I recently bought new laundry detergent by Seventh Generation. It's supposed to be much better for the environment and is not tested on animals! Anyways, as I was pouring some liquid into the cap, I caught sight of a quote on the back of the bottle...
"In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations." -- From The Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy

I was struck by this, especially because we have talked a little bit about whether or not we have an obligation to future generations to protect the environment. I know that we're going to be discussing this further, but I just wanted to throw this out there as a little preview.

Here's a link to the rest of The Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy:
It's pretty long but if you're interested, check it out.

Feel free to comment!!


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cultural imperialism in the news?

The following article off of today's BBC news feed has some relation to our discussion this morning about one society attempting to impose its values on another society.

Is Obama's stance toward the proposed Ugandan legislation (a) an example of unwarranted American cultural imperialism at work and/or (b) an illegitmate intrusion into another country's affairs and thus (c) an attempt to interfere with that society's political autonomy?

Discuss . . . .


Obama: Uganda gays bill 'odious'

US President Barack Obama has criticised as "odious" proposed anti-homosexuality legislation in Uganda.

The bill calls for long jail terms or the death penalty in some cases of homosexual intercourse.

It is "unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are," he told politicians and religious leaders at a prayer breakfast in Washington.

Homosexual acts are already illegal in Uganda and punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

The bill would raise that penalty to life in prison.

It also proposes the death penalty for a new offence of "aggravated homosexuality" - defined as when one of the participants is a minor, HIV-positive, disabled or a "serial offender".

Death penalty
  • For "serial offenders", HIV-positive "offenders", or those engaging in homosexual activity with a minor or disabled person Life in prison
  • For homosexual acts Seven years in prison
  • For helping, counselling, or encouraging a person to engage in a homosexual act
  • The bill has already been widely criticised in Europe and the United States.

    "We may disagree about gay marriage," Mr Obama told the annual National Prayer Breakfast, "but surely we can agree that it is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are, whether it is here in the United States or... more extremely, in odious laws that are being proposed more recently in Uganda."

    Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni has distanced himself from the bill, saying it did not represent the views of his government.

    Two weeks ago its sponsor, David Bahati, told a Ugandan newspaper he was willing to "amend some clauses".

    The cabinet has set up a committee to look at his proposals.

    Wednesday, February 3, 2010

    Judith Shklar on Misfortune and Injustice

    Some thoughts to get us rolling. In "Misfortune and Injustice," Shklar comments that we are all unjust: "[T]here is always a strong impulse to do nothing, if at all possible. We all tend to be passively unjust."

    She continues:
    "The very distinction between injustice and misfortune can sometimes be mischievous. It often encourages us to do either too much or too little. That something is the work of nature or of an invisible social hand does not absolve us from the responsibility to repair the damage and to prevent its recurrence as much as possible. Nor can we respond to every unjust act. America's favorite game, passing the blame, is not always constructive" (p. 55).
    Why does Shklar say this? And how are these comments related to her subsequent observations about scapegoating? e.g., on p. 60 where she writes, "Next to guilt, the most truly unjust and unwarranted response to accidents and disasters is scapegoating."

    New blog: welcome!

    Created for NTRES 4330, Applied Environmental Philosophy, 2010.