Monday, March 26, 2018

Invisible Chemical Warfare

Dangerous for the environment. Courtesy Wikipedia.


On February 21, 2017, president Trump had a White House ceremony for signing a resolution empowering mining companies to restart dumping mining waste into waterways. Several miners and the senators of West Virginia and Kentucky and other Republican politicians, invited to the White House, thanked Trump profusely.

Moral crime

This immoral act reminded me of tyrannical regimes dispensing injustice. The monarch, military man, dictator or religious preacher, surrounded by his acolytes, is announcing gifts for the faithful. But seeing a president imitating a strong man? That was unsettling, but not surprising.

Trump did not hide his pride in being a billionaire. And neither did he obscure his hostility towards the natural world and public health. He denounced those supporting the science of global warming. He promised deregulation to the extreme. He was determined to set America back to the ecological nothingness of the Reagan era. Yet about 150 million Americans voted for him.

Trump delivered the US Environmental Protection Agency to a friend of the polluters, Scott Pruitt, who, like Trump, denies global warming. But I was astonished by the exuberance of restarting a crime against Americans and the natural world.

The president of the country and experienced politicians were applauding each other for adding more poisons to the waters, including the drinking water of coal-mining states. To assume they initiated such a malicious policy -- certain to harm millions of Americans and kill wildlife – out of ignorance is ludicrous.

No, they know poisoned water is not good for them, though they are likely ambiguous for anybody else. But Trump’s political class works from established traditions and precedent. The entire scenario of poisoning creeks and rivers has been an integral part of business as usual for more than a century.

Trump is taking advantage of corrupt politics that has transformed America into a country of little if any ecological consciousness. And this ecological amnesia despite Rachel Carson and her inspiring and necessary 1962 book, Silent Spring. Here the few rule and the many are safely kept in mega cities, far removed from the beauty, truth and destruction of the natural world. Besides, economists call the dumping of toxic wastes into waters “externality.” Which is to say no problem. Nature is ours to control, poison, crush and kill.

Precedents of trashing the natural world and human health

It is this broad political consensus that neither the natural world nor the health of the vast number of Americans matters that allows the spraying of pesticides over America for close to a century.

Warning for very toxic and dangerous chemical or pollution. Courtesy Wikipedia.


Of course, the manufacturers of pesticides-biocides are cautious. They know they are selling poisons. They know poisons have a bad reputation. So companies concocting medieval-style cocktails of toxic chemistries and products have been spending decades of lobbying and millions of dollars for convincing farmers, politicians, regulators and scientists their sprays are “safe” and efficacious in killing unwanted weeds, insects, and crop disease.

The first two world wars boosted the reputation of toxic sprays, especially those designed to kill by asphyxiation. WWI was fought partly by nerve poisons. The states that fought WWII produced nerve gases in huge quantities but refrained from using them.

Some sixty million people died in WWII. This was an apocalyptic-like contest that caused massive destruction of cities, countryside and the natural world. The United States suffered the least damage and casualties.

With Europe in ruins and hungry, the United States became the breadbasket of the world. The US Department of Agriculture started expanding its subsidies to large farmers. This gave a tremendous boost to the use of biocides, including nerve poisons directly related to WWI and WWII chemical weapons.

It took decades to feel the effect of the neurotoxic pesticides like organophosphates and carbamates.


Neurotoxic sprays in farming

In the 1970s, EPA ecologists warned that one of the neurotoxins, parathion, was decimating honeybees. An EPA study done at Colorado State University in late 1970s demonstrated the chronic deleterious effects of parathion-like compounds. A human exposed once to parathion or parathion-like chemicals would likely suffer brain damage. An EPA colleague warned that, unless neurotoxins were banned, America would have more and more intellectually inferior people.

Spraying of pesticides-biocides. Courtesy Wikipedia.


America did not monopolize parathion-like chemicals. They dominated global agriculture for decades. They may have triggered mad cow disease in the UK. In fact, the damage of these neurotoxins has been vast. For about twenty years, the British Government forced sheep farmers to dip sheep into mixtures of chemicals made up of neurotoxic pesticides. The result was mass poisoning. Millions of meat-eating people ate nerve poisons. Sheep farmers suffered from increasing cancer, neurotoxic disease and early death. Wild animals like otters were almost driven to extinction.

No matter the harm in America or UK or other countries using neurotoxins, the complex of government, chemical industry and media have been keeping the secret under wraps. But in Europe pesticides and industrialized farming have caused dramatic declines in insects and birds. That destruction is hard to hide.

Yet, the poisoning of two Russians in the UK by agents using a parathion-like neurotoxin has led to media frenzy in both the UK and America. No such uneasiness about the cancer epidemic and the dismantling of ecosystems due to pesticides.

Chemical formula of parathion. Courtesy of Wikipedia.


No wonder the warnings in the late 1970s about neurotoxic pesticides went to the winds. Very toxic chemicals like parathion eventually replaced the original killers banned in the 1990s and 2010s.

The names of the sprays changed. The toxic stuff remained the same. Neonicotinoids from Germany replaced parathion, only to kill more honeybees in the same insidious way of the nerve gases.

The lesson should be obvious. These synthetic chemicals are siblings of warfare agents, which are useless for farming. Organic farmers are the proof. They raise great nutritious food without synthetic sprays.

Ban pesticides as soon as possible.

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