“Nature has introduced great variety into the landscape, but man has displayed a passion for simplifying it. Thus he undoes the built-in checks and balances by which nature holds the species within bounds.”
-Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
Spring returns. Nature’s engine revs up with a cough, sputter and a gasp. The morning songs of the brown thrasher and the attention-getting palm warbler cannot be heard. The vibrant colors associated with Nature’s triumphant return appear faded. Only a lonely mockingbird can be heard warning of life’s imminent collapse.
Fortunately, this imagery is not of spring 2017; rather it alludes to a world dominated by a corporate agenda. A similar vision was presented in 1962 with the release of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. In her book, Carson forewarned of the detrimental effects of the indiscriminate use of pesticides. Her book was a watershed moment in the environmental movement. For a nation infatuated with progress, she advocated for caution. Five decades after the release of her seminal work, we have reason to reconsider her message.
Recently, the EPA halted its proposed ban of the pesticide chlorpyrifos, a pesticide linked to learning disabilities in children. The agency’s refusal comes after its review of the chemical revealed that children are being exposed to residues at 14,000 percent above the prescribed safety level. Horrifying given that scientific evidence indicates prenatal exposure poses risks to fetal brain development. Furthermore, chlorpyrifos is a threat to 1,800 critically endangered species. No argument is needed. The data conveys the threat and the urgency to act.
Source: US EPA 2016 Chlorpyrifos Revised Human Health Risk Assessment for Registration Review, Steady State (21-day) food-only exposure estimates (at 99.9th percentile)
The issue of chlorpyrifos has nothing to do with the evaluation of science or the consideration of the public welfare. The problem of chlorpyrifos represents a struggle between the public and Corporate America. Corporate America is recklessly bending and breaking the rules designed to protect the public from businesses running roughshod over America. In this case, the manufacturers of chlorpyrifos and related pesticides have convinced the EPA to reverse the decision of the Obama administration to ban chlorpyrifos based on mounting concerns to the public.
Front and center in this battle is Dow Chemical, the manufacturer of chlorpyrifos. Lawyers for Dow Chemical have requested the Trump administration to set aside the results of the federal studies on the grounds that they are flawed. While Dow Chemical fails to present a convincing counter-argument to the hazards of chlorpyrifos, they are quick to provide financial support to the Trump administration. Dow donated a $ 1 million dollar check to underwrite Trump’s inaugural celebration. The coziness between Dow Chemical and the Trump administration extends to working relationships. Dow Chemical’s CEO Andrew Liveris leads a White House manufacturing work group in the Trump administration.
Chlorpyrifos is a hazard to the public; the evidence is overwhelming. But the chlorpyrifos argument is relevant beyond the toxicity to the public because it highlights a current crisis of corporate America circumventing regulatory policy. Our regulatory system serves as part of the checks and balances which maintain the integrity of our government and keeps corporate interests within bounds. If our regulatory policies are sidestepped, broken or watered down, then our environmental and human health will also be compromised.
Quotes to consider by Rachel Carson.
“If the Bill of Rights contains no guarantee that a citizen shall be secure against lethal poisons distributed either by private individuals or by public officials, it is surely only because our forefathers, despite their considerable wisdom and foresight, could conceive of no such problem.
– Rachel Carson
“It is also an era dominated by industry, in which the right to make a dollar at whatever cost is seldom challenged.”
– Rachel Carson