Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Abby Zimet: RIP Fresh Water and Life on the Planet

Hey, who needs clean water anyway?

It’s bad enough our moronic Mobster-In-Chief – windmill cancer! nuking hurricanes! mops and buckets to save New York from the apocalyptic high seas of climate change! – wants to trigger “the biggest loss of clean water protection the country has ever seen” by rolling back Obama-era “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rules to protect wetlands and streams under 1972’s Clean Water Act, a move that could free companies, landowners and golf course bigwigs to freely dump pesticides, threatening a thousand Flints and other poor communities and sparking yet-unknown calamities. Trump’s bold plan to poison his own citizens in the name of corporate pandering came after a Davos trip where he bad-mouthed mean Greta Thunberg and other “prophets of doom” who “want to see us do badly,” and praised Elon Musk, “one of our very smart people, one of our great geniuses,” who “does good at rockets” and must be protected along with Thomas Edison and the wheel, even though it was invented in Mesopotamia 5,500 years ago, right before Trump’s reign began. 

His disastrous move also came, it turns out, despite fierce opposition from scientists who know about these things, including his own advisers. According to a complaint by dozens of current former employees of the Environmental Protection Agency, political top brass at the EPA consistently violated provisions of the agency’s own Scientific Integrity Policy to push through a WOTUS rule change that is “in conflict with established science…and the objectives of the Clean Water Act.” Their complaint, issued by the nonprofit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, charges that “scientific expertise was suppressed and dismissed,” key research was “excluded and manipulated,” employees’ negative opinions were stifled, and the EPA’s own scientific advisory board deemed the WOTUS action a “departure from recognized science.” “The EPA has abandoned all pretense of making science-based decisions,” they wrote, “which is counter to its mission of protecting human health and the environment.” The employees also called on the EPA inspector general to launch investigations, and hold political appointees accountable.

The charges by EPA staff represent just part of the skullduggery being perpetrated by complicit pols as part of Trump’s rabid anti-science crusade. Abuses range from New England, where scientists say they were cut from policy decisions on wetlands, to Minnesota, where environmental groups charge officials tried to suppress serious concerns about the impact of a proposed copper-nickel mine on state waterways. The only good news here, in an admittedly relative universe: You may never know the ruinous effects of all this malfeasance, thanks to last month’s quiet shuttering of TOXMAP, a federal interactive database tracking pollution across the country that fans call “a revelatory environmental mapping tool” and “the most accessible and user-friendly portal (for) letting Americans know about the toxics lurking next door.” Hosted by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) and accessible to the public, TOXMAP allowed users to track pollution-producing factories and other environmental hazards, including Superfund cleanup sites.

On Dec. 16, all links to the application on the NLM’s website were “retired,” with notices that the site’s “Specialized Information Services” would cease and other elements of the site would be divvied up. Resources from other organizations, including the EPA, will allegedly still be available, but they will be far less substantial and harder to find, read and navigate. Advocates argue that TOXMAP served as “an essential tool for our environmental right-to-know” and “an effective reality check, alerting (us) to just how pervasive and proximate toxic chemicals have become across the American landscape.” With its demise, Trump’s pathological assault on science and environmental accountability has pushed the ugly reality of our self-destruction a bit further out of sight. If he gets away with gutting WOTUS, that reality will just keep getting uglier. But hey: Way to go owning the libs by poisoning your kids, and who needs clean water anyway?


Photo by Paul Souders © Corbis


Photo by Jim West

Let them drink Flint water.

First published in Common Dreams.

2 comments on “Abby Zimet: RIP Fresh Water and Life on the Planet

  1. John Lawson
    January 30, 2020

    We need a new category of crime: treason against the environment. It should be applicable, not only to corrupt public figures, but to the corporate lobbyists and CEOs who pressure politicians to allow them to pollute.

    Liked by 1 person

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