The 12 Sectors / Environment

Pollution

DANGER: Our Air, Water, and Soil are Terribly Polluted

Photo by Bert van Dijk.
Watson, Claire

Do you believe individuals and organizations who destroy the health of others and of eco-systems should be stopped and forced to provide restitution?

We all play a part in polluting, but some more than others. Corporate pollution is out of control, and often goes unprosecuted, even when it’s dangerous to our health and the environment.

Some examples of corporate pollution with disastrous effects include:

  • The BP oil spill in 2010 was one of the worst environmental disasters in history. It released an estimated 206 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening more than eight U.S. national parks and thousands of species; shutting down multiple fisheries; impacting employment and tourism in the area; and causing ongoing health problems for people exposed to the polluted waters and seafood.
  • Dupont and Dow Chemical Poison Communities with Dioxin. Dioxin is one of the most dangerous super-toxins on the planet. It has been linked to causing cancer and disrupting immune and reproductive systems. A Dow Chemical plant in Midland, Michigan polluted up to 50 miles of surrounding area with Dioxin. [1] Dupont’s plant in Delisle, Mississippi has been poisoning workers and residents nearby. Many people in the community have turned up with rare forms of cancer. For more info, see the video Dioxin, Duplicity, and Dupont. 
  • Texaco Has Destroyed Much of the Amazon in Ecuador. Over the course of 28 years, Texaco (now owned by Chevron), dumped 18 billion gallons of wastewater into surface water streams and left close to 1,000 unlined toxic waste pits in the rainforest that continue to leak toxins into the soil and water and pollute surrounding communities.[2]  
  • Royal Dutch Shell Has Devastated the Niger Delta. The Niger Delta is an environmental catastrophe. Between 1970 and 2000, there were more than 7,000 oil spills.[3]  
  • Honeywell leaked 165,000 pounds of mercury and other toxins into Onondga Lake in New York. It’s the most polluted lake in the U.S.
  • PG&E poisoned residents of Kettleman Hills, CA with chromium from a compressor plant.
  • Many Corporations are Responsible for American Superfund Sites. The EPA has identified more than 1,000 hazardous waste sites in the U.S., called Superfund Sites. Corporations are often responsible for the damage.

Every year corporations also release hundreds of millions of pounds of toxic pollutants into the air. The University of Massachusetts has put together an index, called “The Toxic 100”, ranking the worst corporate air polluters. Among the worst are Bayer Group, Exxon Mobil, Ford Motor Company, Conoco Phillips, Dow Chemical, and BP.

The biggest source of air pollution in the U.S. comes from fossil-fuel electric power plants.[4] 77% of the largest 1000 fossil fuel-fired power plants are not subject to pollution controls under the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review requirements, which regulates the emissions of new power plants and prevents old ones from increasing emissions.[5]

Part of the problem with all this pollution is that we’re externalizing costs, meaning that the costs of goods and services fail to reflect their overall impact. This allows the worst corporate polluters to make a profit even though they’re destroying the planet. To learn more about this check out Annie Leonard’s video, The Story of Stuff:

Organizations and individuals can and should be held accountable for their pollution, especially if it’s harming others.  This can be taken care of within the legal system, which we discuss more in the Environment Solutions article and the Liberty Section.

There are alternatives to this failing model – check them out below.



OPPORTUNITY: We Can Eliminate Waste and Create Sustainable Systems

We are already on our way to creating more sustainable systems – more and more people are recycling and innovative manufacturing processes are emerging that drastically reduce waste. 

In 2007, Americans kept 85 million tons of trash out of landfills and incinerators by recycling their waste.  Although recycling is an important short-term step, it is not the ultimate solution. Recycled products break down over time (something referred to as “down-cycling”) which eventually makes the products and materials useless. This is a good first step, but we can do even better.

Find out how community organizers in India transformed their neighborhoods and created a “zero-waste” state. (click here)

Cradle-to-cradle is an answer to linear, dead-end production and consumption. Coined by architect William McDonough, it is the idea that we can create closed-loop manufacturing cycles, where businesses reclaim and reuse their products over and over again. For example, Interface, Inc., one of the world’s largest carpet manufacturer’s, not only makes high-quality, long-lasting carpets with sustainable materials, but actually reclaims, reprocesses, and reuses all of the carpets they install. It has transformed the industry from being notoriously wasteful to more self-sufficient.  There is now a cradle-to-cradle certification program to encourage more conscious consumer and business decisions.



[1] Nearby Saginaw Bay was found to have the highest amount of dioxin levels ever found in the U.S. at 1.6 million parts per trillion.  When an EPA regional administrator, Mary Gade, tried to go after Dow Chemical she was forced out of office.

[2] Chevron Toxico Website: http://chevrontoxico.com/about/environmental-impacts/

[3] “Nigeria’s Agony Dwarfs the Gulf Oil Spill” by John Vidal. May 30, 2010 in The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/may/30/oil-spills-nigeria-niger-delta-shell

[4] Natural Resources Defense Council, "Global Warming Basics": http://www.nrdc.org/globalwarming/f101.asp#1

[5] New Source Review provides loopholes whereby old power plants can get away with higher emissions. The legislation is so loosely defined that old power plants are getting away with modifications to their plants that increase emissions. The specific problem with New Source Review is that it permits "routine scheduled maintenance" in older plants so long as the maintenance does not result in a "significant increase" of emissions, yet it does not define "significant" so big plants with heavy-duty legal counsel end up skirting the intent of the law. See:

Critical Issues

Why would we risk all life on Earth by exposing ourselves to the most dangerous pollutant ever discovered when there are safe, sustainable and cheap alternatives?
Governments and corporations are deliberately manipulating and altering Earth's climate, endangering the lives of people all over the world. Two of the most extreme cases of geo-engineering are "chemtrails
Do you believe individuals and organizations who destroy the health of others and of eco-systems should be stopped and forced to provide restitution?
Why would we risk our health, threaten evolution and become dependent on chemical companies for our food?
How does climate change relate to the banking elite's effort to transcend national sovereignty, establish global governance and create a global tax to fund their dominance?
How does consuming plastic threaten our well-being and benefit the oil industry at the same time?
What are humans doing that would be causing a vast percentage of bees to die off, and how can we save them?