November 14, 2016
What does it mean to lead and care even when the hurdles are seemingly insurmountable? That seemed to be the essence of my dinner conversation with Erin Brockovich Monday night at Catawba College. She is as genuine and fabulous as she is portrayed by Julia Roberts in the self entitled movie.
How to capture this night in an essay will be a challenge, but here it goes.
Many years after the Hinkley PG&E disaster in California, we still face problems from companies and governments not being transparent with the populace about toxic exposures in our environment. Witness the recent Flint Michigan debacle or the Dan River coal ash spill here in North Carolina. While I am not a big fan of runaway regulation, it is clear that chemicals and toxins need to be controlled in order to protect our children.
Over the course of the night, Erin Brockovich made these statements: "to poison us and not tell us is a game changer", "our right to clean water is our human right", and "this is not a political issue."
Anyone of sound mind would have to agree with the above statements. Unfortunately, we have seen and will continue to see corporate profits and governmental stupidity put before human health. So, what then?
"Super man is not coming, super woman maybe (joke). We must be our own hero", she says.
I will paraphrase here: Lawsuits are a tool to affect change, but they are not the best tool because they are put into motion after a tragic event has hurt people. What we need is transparency and honesty about the chemicals being used in our society so as to prevent a human disease state. Remember that Europe has a precautionary principle making it the companies job to prove safety first and then the chemical, drug or product can be released among us. We, sadly, do not.
As always it is about balancing technological and fundamental societal advancements and the risk that these advancements toe along. We all want our phones and gas but at what cost. I do not know a single human who would trade their child's health for a cell phone or gasoline.
Ken Cook, the president of the Environmental Working Group, and I were discussing the Halifax Project. This project is looking into combinations of chemicals that may be triggering cancer in humans. This IS game changing stuff. However, it is sad that we are still having to do it from the ground up. It takes consumers and scientists who care, like Erin Brockovich or the Flint Michigan pediatrician, Dr. Mona Hanna Attisha, who blew the whistle on the tainted Flint water supply.
This is neither political, nor one person's issue! Erin Brockovich has laid bare the reality that we are all in this together to expose injustice and save our children from the nightmare of chemical toxicity. I still believe that we will some day see the links to cancer and autism in the tea leaves of these chemical combination studies.
She implores us all to become educated and advocate for health. Amen I say. I want some pissed off mom's to join this fight and get involved in fighting this mess. My wife, Nicole, was inspired and po'd by what she learned. We have decided to start by testing our well water and that of Lake Davidson. When we have the results, I will post them for all to see.
During the evening lecture, she showed a map of possible cause and affect associations with cancer nationally. The country was covered in cases. Literally! Her goal is to have a national registry to crowd source data from cancer events. Then they can start to crunch the numbers to find more associations like PG&E's hexavalent chromium and disease. Why we do not already have this in the computer age is quite insane. Kuddos to her for spearheading this effort.
Visit her website and get involved. She implores you and I am doing the same. As I write this letter on election day, I am struck with a single comment. This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. This is straight common sense and necessary for our collective health and vitality.
My good friend Fred Stanback sent me this quote as I was writing this piece.
"It shall be the policy of this State to conserve and protect its lands and waters for the benefit of all its citizenry, and to this end it shall be a proper function of the State of North Carolina and its political subdivisions to acquire and preserve park, recreational, and scenic areas, to control and limit the pollution of our air and water, to control excessive noise, and in every other appropriate way to preserve as part of the common heritage of this State its forests, wetlands, estuaries, beaches, historical sites, open lands, and places of beauty."
Article XIV, Section 5 of the Constitution of the State of North Carolina