NOTH­ING WRONG WITH EN­VI­RON­MEN­TAL SKEP­TI­CISM

The Woolwich Observer - - FRONT PAGE -

ELMIRA AC­TIVIST AL MAR­SHALL is not wrong when he says gov­ern­ments and pol­lut­ing busi­nesses are ca­pa­ble of be­ing wrong, ly­ing and cov­er­ing up in­con­ve­nient facts. When it comes to health and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns, there are plenty of ex­am­ples to back his po­si­tion.

That doesn’t mean, how­ever, that such chi­canery is at work in every in­stance.

In the mat­ter of meth­ane in Bolen­der Park, it’s clear Wool­wich Town­ship doesn’t have a full han­dle on the scale of the for­mer mu­nic­i­pal dump on the site. And there have been lapses in mon­i­tor­ing the area. But the over­all pic­ture is one of very lit­tle risk to the pub­lic.

Much of the cur­rent meth­ane prob­lem is largely con­tained to what is now 86 Auto and Me­tal Re­cy­clers, though the is­sue pre­dates by many years that new op­er­a­tion and even the for­mer one, Paleshi Mo­tors, as the Bolen­der land­fill was in use be­tween 1962 and 1970.

Even there, it isn’t clear if meth­ane lev­els are trou­bling in the longer term, though the town­ship is wait­ing on as­sess­ment from the pro­vin­cial Min­istry of the En­vi­ron­ment.

A con­sul­tant’s re­port pre­sented this week to town­ship coun­cil, prompted by a list of ques­tions and com­ments from Mar­shall, finds no ev­i­dence of any cause for con­cern, in line with past mon­i­tor­ing re­ports.

Still, there’s noth­ing wrong with be­ing skep­ti­cal, with ques­tion­ing what of­fi­cials put for­ward. A good rule of thumb with po­lit­i­cal and cor­po­rate in­ter­ests is to chal­lenge all po­si­tions – if they tell you the sky is blue, cast an eye sky­ward to make sure.

That’s es­pe­cially true of en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues, where de­nial and in­ac­tion are not un­com­mon re­ac­tions to real prob­lems. We’ve seen some of that here in the early stages of con­tam­i­na­tion in­volv­ing Var­ni­color and what was Uniroyal Chem­i­cal (now Lanxess) in Elmira, is­sues where Mar­shall had a front-row seat.

Looked at through the lens of cover-ups and poor de­ci­sions, skep­ti­cism is the right re­sponse. Of course, that cuts both ways, most no­tably just now in skep­ti­cism over cli­mate change. Here, too, we have to ask cui bono – who ben­e­fits? Much of the cli­mate change de­nial and ap­par­ently con­tra­dic­tory ev­i­dence comes from du­bi­ous sources or from sources di­rectly funded by in­dus­tries in­tent on main­tain­ing the sta­tus quo – it’s the same sce­nario at play with di­rect in­ter­ven­tion in academia and “think tanks” by wealthy rightwing fund­ing sources, which got un­der­way in the years fol­low­ing the pro­gres­sive, ac­tivist 1960s.

The cur­rent con­sen­sus is that years of pol­lu­tion have con­trib­uted to cli­mate change, which seems in­tu­itively right given all the other dele­te­ri­ous ef­fects pol­lu­tants have had on the en­vi­ron­ment and our own health. Even cli­mate- change skep­tics can’t ar­gue the fact we’re poi­son­ing the only home we have.

A con­certed ef­fort by vested in­ter­ests – more than 90 per cent of skep­ti­cal cli­mate change re­search is funded by politi­cized sources – makes it that some of us don’t know what to be­lieve about cli­mate change. We’re even more adrift over so­lu­tions.

Noth­ing wrong with be­ing skep­ti­cal, in­clud­ing about the skep­tics.

Ask ques­tions. Don’t like the an­swers? Ask some more. But some­times, like a ci­gar is just a ci­gar, an an­swer ac­tu­ally is just that.

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