High Tide and High Time

The beach in winter is solitude perfect, an opportunity to discover and recognize one’s immense smallness. My largest thoughts will never hold a candle to the Atlantic’s majesty. And I’m a man who knows big thinking – my life goals – which, like the oceans, both humble and sustain me as I forever forge ahead.

My best big thinking pales in comparison to the ideals of another great one – a man like few we’ve ever known. Today we celebrate the limitless legacy of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. I was only 8 years old on the day of his assassination. Yet his message of empowerment, hope, fairness and the relentless pursuit of justice will forever ring true. I am honored to bow to his greatness.

This off-season, my fourth on Jersey’s coast, I time my beach sojourn with low tide. An additional 40 yards of firm sand delivers my imagination beyond the break, where I, too, walk on water. Oftentimes a long lake forms, moat-like, on the shoreline. In Fall and Spring, I wade through, chilling my toes and calves. But Winter is thick-socked and booted, so I must stay ashore until I come upon a narrow rise in the sandy bottom. My entry to the beyond deepens my oceanic bond. Intentions and exaltations rejuvenate, it’s impossible to stay low.

Reality returns quickly, though. My dreams intact, my heart strong, I do battle with the human detritus that relentlessly assaults our oceans. Plastic bag at the ready which, of course, I find on the beach, I walk the high tide mark – mama nature’s rampart. I collect plastic shreds and Styrofoam wedges wind-blown from a thousand garbage cans. I gather bottles and cans that somehow missed the recycle bin, wave-strewn and rejected by the tides. Within a mile of walking, my two arms and ten fingers are weighed down. It’s a solo endeavor, one I take pride in, to actively participate in protecting Her from us.

It’s high time that we devote our mindsets to cleanup and conservation. Land and sea has given our species much, yet we continually strive to take more. We collectively suck her dry, and the day will come when Mother Nature says, “ENOUGH!” Until we reverse the leveraging of earth’s resources, and become protectors all, our species’ survival is on a countdown. Earth will live on and thrive without us, after She swats us away like an annoying cluster of gnats.

‘Nuff said.

 

Who Ya Gonna Call in Hoosick Falls?

14666135030_9b5ba88c80_zHere’s an update to my November post, Not My Tap:

 

 

The residents of Hoosick Falls, NY and the surrounding region might soon have no one to call, not even ghostbusters. While the decision on a federal class action law suit is pending, a settlement agreement between the town and the poisoners is on the table. And it’s not friendly. Thanks to Brendan J. Lyons (@brendan_lyonstu) for great reporting throughout the ordeal.

This is not a national story, but it is a local calamity oft-repeated around the country. Companies are forced to defend their existence and profits, while the little man suffers ill health, premature death, or financial ruin without recourse. In the middle are politicians, state and federal regulators, and corporate soldiers following orders. Alas, it is a story well-worn, beaten down.

And it’s a scenario that is NOT going away any time soon, possibly coming to your neighborhood, if not already gurgling in your water supply. So, pay attention.

A few years ago, lethally high levels of PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid) were found to have contaminated the water supply of Hoosick Falls, a sleepy hamlet 30-miles north of Albany. The culprit was a local factory that provided decades of good jobs and economic stability, as a manufacturer of Teflon-coated cookware and other plastics. Unfortunately, we all know where this story goes. Only after billions of pots, pans and spatulas are sold do we learn that PFOA will kill you. Slowly.

It’s critical to point out that this discovery came at the hand of a local citizen – not the county or state DEP, not the EPA – who lost his father to cancer. He sent a water sample to an independent lab. And BAM!

In the lawsuit, plaintiffs seek unspecified damages to pay for early detection monitoring, primarily blood tests, as well as the future costs of illness linked to the water contamination. Already dozens of people, including children, have tested positive for toxic levels of PFOA in their bloodstreams. Additionally, the plaintiffs seek monetary compensation for their severely diminished property values. Considering that local banks have suspended issuing home mortgages, and the EPA has recently designated a number of locations in the region, including the factory, as Superfund sites, I would say that beef is legitimate, too.

The defendants in this case, Saint Gobain Performance Plastics and Honeywell, Inc., seek a dismissal of the case altogether, mainly on the strength of legal-ese. Distinguishing between the legal definition of “exposure” and “injury” will likely determine how the health risk portion of the suit is decided. Under current NY State law, companies are only responsible to pay for damages caused by injury. As for property values, the argument from the defense relies on the fact that PFOA does not cause physical harm to “wells, pipes, taps, or showerheads.” Sure, they got that going for them.

Notice how there is NO ARGUMENT that PFOA has infiltrated the bodies and homes of the plaintiffs. Isn’t that kind of like saying, “tough shit, Hoosick Falls, you’re on your own?”

It’s safe to believe that a decision favorable to the plaintiffs could run in the millions, if not tens of millions of dollars. Sounds about right, possibly even fair. Well, keep your eyes in their eye sockets, the defendants have offered to settle for $850,000. And part of this agreement includes no future legal recourse from the plaintiffs.

Not far from all sides of this human debacle lingers state regulators, politicians, and the EPA. The finger of blame is being pointed in multiple directions, with “not my fault” as the supportive argument. It’s a timeless defense. Reminds me of when I was a kid, no more than 8 years old. My best buddy and I got nabbed for “leaking” non-potable fluids in the backyard. And when his mom asked me, “Why’d you do that?” I only had one response, repeated multiple times, “well, Chris did it, too.” Deflect blame to escape responsibility.

At the end of the day, where does this leave the harmed citizens of Hoosick, today or 30-years from now? Let’s assume that they do not agree to the settlement. Even if the judge rules for the plaintiffs, unending appeals can delay or drastically shrink the final damages (see Exxon, Chris Christie, and NJ). Meanwhile, human beings will suffer, either with actual sickness, or the outsized fear of developing cancer hovering over their daily lives.

Let me be clear. Are you ready to find out, decades after the fact, that your water supply is poisoned?  The unfortunate truth is this, too, could be you. Overnight, kiss goodbye the value of home and property. Wonder and worry about your health, or the wellbeing of your loved ones. Every sniffle will send a cancer shiver down your spine.

I cannot pronounce this more urgently: LEARN where your water comes from, what’s in it, and who is responsible for its quality and delivery. INVEST in water filtration, or start a petition in your neighborhood to promote the crazy idea that filters must be distributed by your water treatment provider. Do something, be proactive. The sad truth is we must fight to protect our water and our health. Delay or ignore is now at your own peril.

‘Nuff said.

Photo credit: iLoveMountains.org

2017: Sink or Swim

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My dear friends, I believe our forward path is that simple. We either sink into oblivion, or swim together to safe, smart, progressive shores. I believe #theDTs and #climatechange are the two most significant issues we face. Many others I hold dear, but they wither away, as do we, if we don’t STOP #PEOTUS and START addressing global warming.

My trump-lover acquaintances will bloviate, “c’mon dude, give the guy a chance.” Sorry, can’t. Not after learning his nominations for the U.S. Board of Directors. At EVERY level – Education, Environment, Energy, Health, Justice, Labor, State, Treasury, to name eight – the trump-ian kleptocracy can and will take hold, and we lose.

To quadruple down on the bad news, our climate has been screaming at us for years. The national consciousness has collectively responded with a sigh (and snowballs in Congress) to the severity and consistency of catastrophic storms. Our new normal is to wonder “how bad is it gonna be this year?” Let’s query the folks of the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, or Toms River, NJ, or Fort McMurray in Alberta, or Joplin, MO. And guaranteed that many from these neighborhoods voted red. It’s more important to believe a frothing hair monster that “he alone…blah, blah, blah.” Makes me sick.

Exhale. Reboot to #hope and #change. I strongly suggest learning about our climate, it’s more than the 5-day weather forecast. And I vehemently recommend this interview posted today in Scientific American. Annie Sneed (@aisneed) asks incisive questions of Friederike Otto (@FrediOtto) about the growing field of “attribution science.” Until about 2-hours ago, I hadn’t heard of this discipline. Doesn’t make me a loser, and now I’m more informed.

Another doozy of a wakeup call comes from the mouth of Noam Chomsky. Have a read or a listen to his speech and the discussion with the unshakeable Amy Goodman of @democracynow.

I guess my biggest suggestions, no, I’m begging you, to please learn something today, then do something about what you’ve learned.  I do this all the time, and it feels good. And yes, I will continue to pick up other people’s garbage on my beach walks. It’s no longer gross; in fact, it’s gross to not keep manmade crap out of the ocean. Better in my hands than in the Atlantic, or a seagull’s gullet.

I’ll close today’s post with the prophetic 1964 lyrics of Bob Dylan:

“…and admit that the waters around you have grown / And accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone / If your time to you is worth savin’ / then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone…”

‘Nuff said.

Photo Credit: Gillfoto, “Mendenhall Glacier Melting,” March 3, 2014 https://www.flickr.com/photos/gillfoto/

Connecting the Water Dots

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LOOK. I hope this image frightens you. Approaching the 8th anniversary of the Kingston Coal Ash spill – the billion gallon environmental catastrophe – how we doing in our awareness, response and prevention efforts?

I’d say, not so good.

Truth be told, these large-scale events catch everyone’s attention for possibly two news cycles, then the masses change channels to MNF or DWTS. Love how EVERYTHING these days is a god damn acronym? My new fave: the #DTs. To some, delerium tremens comes to mind. To me, our president elect, freakishly appropriate!

But, I digress. Back to water ignorance.

Thanks to the many organizations like Waterkeeper Alliance, who are consistently raising awareness and money, and of equal importance, generating site clicks on social networks. Bad water news floats by daily. Here are some highlights, and don’t skip the 11-second effort to click on these links, or the 3+ minutes to learn something:

Possum Point

Gulf of Mexico – NOT the BP Deepwater disaster

The #1 killer of children globally, and it’s preventable

Listen to me, please. It no longer matters whether these events are “not in my backyard.” Allow me to connect the dots. Firstly, water flows and always finds its place, carrying with it whatever is put in. Secondly, as long as your utility is burning coal to turn the lights on, then you are involved. Thirdly, how’s that succulent Gulf shrimp tasting? And lastly, how do we continue to accept that 700+ million people don’t have what we have (limitless hydration access) and 2.4 billion people defecate outdoors?

Prevention of future water bombs is a good goal. But the inevitable truth, just ask Corpus Christi, TX, is that someday soon, you or I will be standing on a long line at the big box store with a cart full of bottled water.

If you know anyone who works at a water treatment plant, give them a hug or a handshake for their service. Then tell them about this great article on the 11 Steps to prepare for chemical spills.

Water awareness and safety used to be deep in the background. Turn on the tap, flush the bowl, keep it movin’. Today, tomorrow, and the next day, this mode of thinking is no longer acceptable. So start paying attention. “Water is boring” is so yesterday.

‘Nuff said.

 

Photo credit: SkyTruth, “Kingston Coal-Ash Spill, December 23, 2008                         Courtesy of Tennessee Valley Authority https://www.flickr.com/photos/skytruth/             https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/

Not My Tap

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Water knows no boundaries, except those it carves on its own. Whether hurricane or 10-minute downpour, water meanders wherever it likes, dykes and storm drains be damned.

The same holds for poisoned water. The key distinctions are its cause(s) and “economic geography.” Just ask the folks of Hindman, KY.

Never heard of Hindman? You’re not alone. How about Hoosick Falls, NY? I’m sure you’ve heard of Flint. Fundraiser focus is always a good thing. But how’s the water now?

Fascinatingly frustrating NYT article published yesterday, check it out here. The people of Hindman know Flint’s dilemma well. They understand the plights of those sickened or dead in Hoosick Falls, too.

Coal, cars, teflon: Hindman, Flint, Hoosick Falls. Turns on the lights, gets the kids to school on time, eggs over easy.

Powerful companies deliver the goods that slake our insatiable demands. They have the ear and the pocketbook of our blue and red politicians. When demands for clean up and reparation are voiced, nothing a deft bankruptcy or lengthy litigation can’t solve, legal as the water is brown. How’s the stock price?

And notice WHERE these toxic production sites are located, certainly not a 3-wood’s distance to the Park Ave penthouses, Rodeo Drives, or Pennsylvania Avenues of the decision-makers.

“…the rest of the country treats us like we’re the cost of doing business in America.” Thank you Daile Boulis. Truth cuts right to the heart of the matter. We’re all responsible.

‘Nuff said.

Photo credit: iLoveMountains.org