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What Will It Take For Us to Say “NO” to Corporate Environmental Disasters?

2010/10/08

Do we really want corporations calling the shots, dictating government policy for the rest of us? Last January, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, that corporations are persons, entitled by the Constitution to buy elections and run the government. Every year, globally, Big Oil  gets $500 billion dollars a year of our (taxpayer’s) money, to encourage us to keep digging up old buried dead things, at great risk to people and the environment as evidenced most recently by the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and Canada’s toxic tar sands, and of course climate change. Those same corporations make billions of dollars in profits from selling us all that oil, and use that money to muddy the public debate on climate change, about which there is scientific certainty – the only question that climate scientists debate is how fast the “tipping point” into catastrophic global climate instability is going to occur.

This week, we have the pictures out of Hungary as a mile-wide tidal wave of toxic sludge from an aluminium factory reaches the Danube river, one of Europe’s key waterways and the source of drinking water for many. At least four people were killed and three are missing, and over 120 have been hospitalized, after the unstoppable torrent inundated homes, swept cars off roads, burned people through their clothes and emptied 35 million cubic feet of toxic waste onto several nearby towns. USA Today reports:

Meanwhile, residents wearing pants coated with red mud cleared the muck away from their homes with snow shovels.

Kati Holtzer said the sludge smashed through the door of her home in Kolontar and trapped her and her 3-year-old boy in a churning flood of acrid waste.

She saved her son by placing him on a sofa that was floating in the muck. She called her husband, Balazs, who was working in Austria, to say goodbye.

“We’re going to die,” she told him, chest-deep in sludge.

We all need to take responsibility for demanding more stringent environmental standards, whether in Hungary or in the Alberta tar sands. There are other ways of doing business – let’s vote with our pocketbooks as well as our ballots, and demand change. We need jobs, but not at the cost of our future, and that of our children. As Franke James puts it, “Maybe the truth is without a healthy environment, there is no economy.”

This video shows how fast, and overwhelming, the toxic wave was as the reservoir holding in the waste burst. This was a farming community, but experts are saying there is little chance that farming can be resumed because of the permanent change in soil PH, as well as chemicals left behind by the deluge.

More links:

Hungary’s toxic red sludge reaches the Danube

Toxic Sludge Has “Surprisingly High” Levels of Arsenic, Mercury, According to Greenpeace

We All Subsidize Big Oil’s War on Our Grandchildren

Ending the Climate War

Move to Amend


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