I write in response to these heavy articles:
The above image makes me feel many things. The main takeaway is that when you intermingle the industrial world with the natural world, there is something greatly off-putting. When you look at the image, the first uncomfortable detail is the smoke. It suffocates two-thirds of the image like a looming annoyance.
But after I see the smoke, I start to focus on many other issues. The industrial giant: carving out the horizon with its harsh lines.
The cows: grazing in peace while their lungs fill with mysterious byproducts.
The trees: cut down to make space for the industrial giant
The invisible organisms: the animals and plant life that were pushed out of their ecosystem long ago.
The ones that may never return.
All of this sounds very harsh and depressing, but it is real. After reading these articles, my mind was racing in a similar way. When you dive into a big issue like the fossil fuel industry depleting the state of Wisconsin or DuPont poisoning communities nationally with unknown chemicals, it is hard not to watch your brain spin.
The articles uncovered many aspects of industrial corruption and coverup. They revealed the true power of these industries: A power that can profit meanwhile destroying the health of the people, community, and ecosystems surrounding them.
In Bryan Schutmaat’s article, “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare,” Lawyer Rob Billot went through the treacherous journey of these discoveries. The issues he found were much more serious then he had ever thought before. Like the image of the cows in front of the industrial giant, he was lost in a world where all the issues intertwined.
A similar dilemma is described in Emily J. Gertz’s article, “How the West Was Lost: Ranchers Devastated by Fossil Fuel Boom.” The powerful industries of an area were able to maneuver their way through laws and land and they could quickly take the health of that whole environment into their hands. If this was not true, Wisconsin would still be the Wild West.
Ironically, Wisconsin’s state slogan is: Stay Just a Little Bit Longer; America’s Dairyland. Agricultural protection is not on the Fossil Fuel Industry’s agenda.
Instead… I think the “FORWARD” thinking that Wisconsin had prized has become something more like:
The scariest part of all of this, though, is not just the effects it has put on these ecosystems and communities; with the great power of these industries comes great resources to fight, fight, and fight.
Although Rob Billot fought DuPont for much of his career, his battle was not a full victory. They are still using chemicals that are quite similar to PFOA, and many of these chemicals are still floating around our everyday lives.
If there is anything to be learned, it is that these battles cannot be fought alone. Wisconsin farmers are just a few. They watch their land degrade but they stand little chance against professional schemers. Similarly, civilians of a community with poisonous water might develop cancer but not even be aware of the cause because their water companies do not have to list the levels of chemicals that it contains.
They must be helped by others that can put up a fair fight against the professional schemers. They must join forces with members of the community that can challenge and try to change the laws put in place. Only TOGETHER do I think that anything can change.
Although he did not win it all, Rob Billot did a brave and incredible amount of work. He opened up the conversation about environmental protection in relation to the world of Justice.
This is where Earthjustice comes into play. There is hope at the end of the tunnel if we have someone to help us take on these big industries. Earthjustice thrives on taking down the powerful and profiteering so that the communities from near and far can be improved. Because they are nonprofit, their drive will never be one like these industrial powers: they understand that a piece of paper is not as important as others make it out to be.
Earthjustice has proven to work. They have helped environmental groups and movements throughout their history on a range of different issues. They understand that many of these environmental issues intercept, therefore they fight for healthier land, oceans, air, and animals.
It is always important to remember, though, that these lawyers cannot help if they don’t have many others willing to bring the issues forward. As they describe on their website: “The generous support of hundreds of thousands of individuals like you allows us to take on the most important cases and stick with them for as long as it takes.
They also highlight that awareness and education is essential in the battle against environmental issues. For this reason they have advocacy campaigns that focus on this. It is important that every environmentalist joins in spreading awareness.
The case against DuPont is well known, but how well known? If it had been spread around even more, how might things be different?
Reconsider this photo:
Take a breath.
While all of these issues at once might be overwhelming, when you break them down and fight together, it is possible to make change.