When President Joe Biden braved Republican jeers and boos to deliver his State of the Union address in February, one of the few lines that received bipartisan applause recalled Congressional action last year on what he hailed then as the “most significant law our nation has ever passed to help millions of veterans.” Called the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, this legislation allocates $280 billion over the next decade for health care and disability pay for former service members harmed by toxic substances. An estimated 3.5 million service members were exposed to noxious fumes from open burn pits and other hazards during three decades of U.S. military intervention in the Middle East.
Poisoning the Pacific: The US Military’s Secret Dumping of Plutonium, Chemical Weapons, and Agent Orange, a new book by Japan-based journalist Jon Mitchell, is a detailed investigation and documentation of U.S. and Japanese military chemical and biological poisoning and pollution across the Pacific, Asia and South East Asia. Mitchell’s work doesn't cover the U.S. military poisoning of Hawai'i as that would require a separate volume due to the concentration of the U.S. military bases and their pollution in the state.
The new administration of US president-elect Joe Biden must resist pressure from US oil and chemical companies to use Kenya as a dumping ground for plastic waste. In April, the American Chemistry Council (ACC), members of which include Shell, Exxon, Total, DuPont and Dow, proposed investments in recycling in Kenya, provided that the recipient country accepts US plastic waste. Kenya would get about 500 million tonnes of plastic waste exports from the US per year. Until January 2018, most of the world’s plastic waste was sent to China. Beijing decided that the environmental risks were not worth it and refused to continue.
The herbicide atrazine is likely to adversely affect over half of endangered species listed in the United States, according to a report released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of a legal agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). Based on both adverse human health and environmental threats, Beyond Pesticides joined with Center for Food Safety, CBD, and other public-interest groups in October to sue EPA over its decision to reapprove atrazine, an endocrine-disrupting herbicide banned across much of the world.
California - On a busy corner in Vista Hermosa, a neighborhood just west of downtown Los Angeles, early signs of construction have begun on a 7-story, 64-unit apartment building called Firmin Court. The project’s developer, the Decro Group, has pledged that the new building, which is one of six active multi-family developments under construction in a five-block radius, will provide supportive and affordable housing for “chronically homeless individuals, persons at risk of becoming homeless, and low-income families.”
Here is a word that risks deterring you from reading on much further, even though it may hold the key to understanding why we are in such a terrible political, economic and social mess. That word is “externalities”. It sounds like a piece of economic jargon. It is a piece of economic jargon. But it is also the foundation stone on which the west’s current economic and ideological system has been built. Focusing on how externalities work and how they have come to dominate every sphere of our lives is to understand how we are destroying our planet – and offer at the same time the waypost to a better future.
In a blistering report on Pennsylvania’s 12-year experience with hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, a special statewide grand jury said public health and the environment have suffered and the state’s environmental and health agencies, rather than acting as watchdogs, had a “culture of inadequate oversight.” “When it comes to fracking, Pennsylvania failed,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who convened the Investigating Statewide Grand Jury that listened to scores of witnesses and reports of investigators over two years.
Barrett, Texas - Fred Barrett thought he'd wait out Hurricane Harvey at his home in this town outside Houston, founded by his great-grandfather in 1889. He prepared for heavy rain, wind and flooding. But when the murky brown San Jacinto River jumped its banks, flooding Barrett's neighbors and an ominous cluster of four hazardous waste Superfund sites nearby, Barrett worried the catastrophic 2017 storm could fill his community with deadly toxins. The most notorious of the sites, the San Jacinto Waste Pits, was smashed by 16 feet of water that undermined a concrete cap covering the site's toxic contents, washing dioxin downriver.