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Health, Safety, Toxicity . . . and Elections

Caring for the health and safety of our children and families is common ground where Americans on the left and the right meet. Yet, during this election cycle, few candidates seem willing to talk about the health and safety risks caused by toxic industries. Instead, the false split between environment and jobs is used to divide people . . . and to allow major corporations to continue to poison our children.

But after a month of horror stories – pipeline ruptures in Louisiana, Texas, and the breaking news of North Dakota’s largest oil spill in state history; plus a deadly gas explosion in Maryland and the evacuation of residents because of massive lead poisoning in East Chicago, Indiana – liberals and libertarians alike should be questioning their assumptions about the role our government does – or should – play in regulating industry.

Liberals need a sharp wake-up call about the realities of the corporate-oligarchic government (Big Gov, as the conservatives and libertarians like to call it). Rather than fulfilling the ideals of a powerful body that protects the health and safety of the people, the corporate-political collusion manages to bend, break, and manipulate every law on the books to increase their profits at the expense of our safety. If government is supposed to protect us, it’s failing its duties.

Libertarians need to drop their fantasies of a deregulated state, and instead, do some soul-searching to come up with a reasonable explanation for how our children will be kept safe from these powerful industries that have demonstrated over and over their willingness to poison our children for the sake of their profits.

As for our “family values conservatives,” the question to ponder is: if you love your families so much, why, for God’s sake, do you allow your political candidates to neglect the health and safety of your children by refusing to support higher standards of air and water quality controls? Why do you allow them to thwart attempts to introduce legislation to protect the land, rivers, and oceans that your children’s food comes from? Why do you disregard the need for basic health and safety regulations on toxic industries?

In this year’s election cycle, there has been a notable silence about the health and safety risks caused by industries like oil, gas, coal, mining, and manufacturing. Why? Because politicians can get away with caring more about the profits of their corporate sponsors than the wellbeing of your children. They’ve been allowed to parrot the false claim that “what’s good for business is good for everyone.” (Which is obviously not true for the lead-poisoned residents of East Chicago, Indiana.) We’ve allowed the politicians to dupe us into believing that jobs are the silver-bullet solution to all of our social woes. Plenty of jobs do not poison and pollute. Those that do are not worthy work.

There is no job on Earth that justifies the poisoning of our children. There is no amount of money that we can gain from jobs that can pay the price of our children’s lost health. There are no jobs that are worth the cost of the ever-increasing amount of United States soil and water that is contaminated with toxins. We have 1322 Superfund sites, and numerous other toxic locations. The Yellowstone River, the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, the Animas and San Juan Rivers in New Mexico, the Dan River in North Carolina, the Elk River in West Virginia have all been heavily contaminated in recent years. How much more of this assault can the health of our people and our land sustain?

We need our politicians to stop ignoring or glossing over these concerns. Left and right should stand united on this issue. The health of our nation’s children must be put before profits. The sanctity and vitality of our air, land, and water that keeps us alive comes before the interests of rich and powerful individuals. Our politicians must take a stand now, not during the next election cycle. Now, before it is too late. Now, before one more child is poisoned.

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Rivera Sun is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and other books, and the cofounder of the Love-In-Action Network.

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