Environmental Health News

What's Working

  • Garden Mosaics projects promote science education while connecting young and old people as they work together in local gardens.
  • Hope Meadows is a planned inter-generational community containing foster and adoptive parents, children, and senior citizens
  • In August 2002, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board voted to ban soft drinks from all of the district’s schools

#223 - Recent Contributions To The New World Order Revealed: 15,000 Points Of Blight, 05-Mar-1991

No one can deny that the United States military has recently done mind-
boggling work. On very short notice from the Commander-in-Chief and
with few directives as to why they were being sent, our armed forces
took on Iraq--a country with a military machine honed to the edge by
eight years of war, a land mass twice the size of Idaho, a gross
national product equal to that of Kentucky, a population of 18 million
people (only 10% smaller than the New York metropolitan area's) and a
spunky, youthful population at that (45% aged 15 or less). Using smart
weapons--80% of the electronics for which our military leaders were
smart enough to purchase from the Japanese--and backed only by Great
Britain, France, Germany, and a handful of other experienced warrior
titans, our military creamed them, killing roughly 100,000 Iraqi
soldiers in record time and bringing what American reporters learned to
call "collateral damage" (formerly known as death) to perhaps another
25,000 to 50,000 civilians in only six weeks.

Despite the failure to get Saddam Hussein himself--the one Iraqi we
know of who richly deserved to die--this was an important victory
because two-thirds of the world's known reserves of oil lie beneath
five countries: Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab
Emirates. Oil, everyone knows, is uniquely important to our well being
because it undergirds our fastest-growing industry, which has been the
rising star of Wall Street throughout the 1980s at a time when other
Wall Street stars have mostly ended up behind bars. With the S&L
industry crumbling at a cost to taxpayers of $500 to $1000 billion,
with the nation's banking system failing at unprecedented rates (the
largest U.S. bank, Citicorp, was bailed out in the middle of the war by
a Saudi prince who loaned the bank $590 million at 11% interest), with
the insurance industry on the ropes, with Ford and GM suffering the
largest losses ever recorded, with people saying that America's
industrial and political leaders are too busy lining their own pockets
to provide the nation with (a) an educational system that could improve
upon our present 25% illiteracy rate, (b) an affordable health-care
system for the steadily-growing numbers of people debilitated by
asthma, cancer and a host of other modern diseases, (c) housing for
hundreds of thousands of homeless, and so on--it's important to have at
least one 100%-American industry growing as strongly as a toadstool in
manure. It provides a shining star of hope in an otherwise overcast
firmament. In the U.S., we (meaning private industry, plus government
at all levels) now spend $90 billion per year on end-ofpipe pollution
controls. It's our proudest growth industry. If we didn't have oil,
we'd be forced to shift to alternative energy sources that are much
more difficult to control politically, such as sunlight and hydrogen
fuels derived from water, and which wouldn't support anything like our
present-day mushrooming end-of-pipe pollution-control enterprise.

There are other benefits from oil as well. Besides providing each of
our metropolitan areas with a protective blanket of brown smog (giving
the medical community at least $100 billion in income each year, and
helping control U.S. population by eliminating at least 30,000 people
annually via respiratory distress), oil byproducts have (a) diminished
the planet's ozone layer by 5% in only 50 years (creating massive
research opportunities for university and NASA scientists seeking
answers to the ozone puzzle, and for industrial chemists hoping to be
first to patent the next surprise), (b) reduced crops and forests in
the eastern U.S. and Canada and in northern Europe through acid
rainfall (cutting the need for expensive, socialistic farm production
control programs, and providing higher prices for the lumber industry
by increasing the scarcity of healthy trees), and (c) provided the raw
material for the vast majority of the toxics found in the nation's
20,000-plus chemical dumps on the federal Superfund-candidate list.
Superfund cleanups alone will ultimately blossom into a $100billion
startup industry that didn't even exist 15 years ago. And we must not
overlook the many benefits from global warming--another direct
consequence of our commitment to petroleum: a phalanx of emergency
response personnel will be needed to rebuild regions where
unprecedentedly large hurricanes and tornadoes have tracked through,
farm prices will rise when food becomes scarce as the soils of the
midwestern corn belt dry up, and enormous public works projects (dams
and concrete channels) will be required to transport water from deluged
northern regions to parched southern regions. Fortunately, Bechtel,
Brown & Root, and other American construction giants--fresh from the
task of rebuilding Kuwait and Iraq for an estimated $100 to $200
billion--will be able to hire armies of unemployed former farmers and
homeless crack addicts to complete the desperately-needed water
projects, for which we will all naturally be required to ante up.

It must be clear to even the most hardened pacifist that the many
benefits of oil are certainly worth waging war for whenever an
opportunity presents itself. It would even be worth manufacturing an
opportunity or two, like escalating a serious but entirely local border
dispute into a raging conflagration. Thankfully, our recent success in
the Middle East carries with it nearly zero danger that political
stability will be achieved between the haves and the have-nots in the
region, so we'll doubtless be able to develop other opportunities to
defend our oil supplies again before too long.

Happily, the cheap, readily-available alternative to oil is unthinkable
in the present political climate: a faint-hearted reduction in our per-
capita energy consumption by caulking our buildings to prevent heat
loss; by adopting unmanly cars that get 45 miles per gallon; by
refurbishing anti-individualistic trolley systems that transported
people in (and between) U.S. cities in the 1920s until General Motors
and Goodyear Tire generously bought them up and dismantled them; by
retreating backward to embrace has-been, weak technologies like
railroads instead of modern, brawny trucks.

No, there's little danger that these effeminate alternatives will be
favored by the present administration. Commander-in-Chief Bush
announced in the middle of the war that his national energy strategy
had only one key plank: more deep drilling to find and develop more oil
fields off the coasts of Maine, New Jersey, Florida, California and,
best of all, in Alaska's prized Arctic Wildlife Refuge--to pump, pump,
pump and then pump some more. An energy platform strictly for real men-
-oil men doing what oil men do best--really putting it to America.

When we started this discussion based on the military's most recent
success, we didn't mean to imply that their contribution to America's
industrial growth has been limited to recent months. Over the years,
they've played a key role creating the need for a pollution control
industry, but until now no one has ever cataloged their contribution to
the flowering of this new line of work: inventing the ultimate
technical gizmo to capture pollution after it's been created (a modern
search for the Holy Grail), new ways of packaging pollution for public
acceptance (the double-lined state-of-the-art landfill was the first,
soon to be followed by the doubleor triple-scrubber incinerator with
its very own ash monofill), and, of course, all of this creating a need
for a vast army of "site remediation specialists"--chemical dump
cleanup jockeys. Ability to read and write not mandatory. An equal
opportunity employer.

The military establishment is by far the biggest contributor to
pollution in America, far outstripping anything that private industry
can point to in the way of creating cleanup opportunities. Now,
finally, a new report has been issued by the National Toxic Campaign
Fund entitled, The U.S. Military's Toxic Legacy: America's Worst
Environmental Enemy. This important new report details "15,000 points
of blight"--enough to make the Commander-in-Chief swell with pride as
he reflects on the need for an equal number of "points of light" to
confront these military leftovers. Actually, there are only 1579
contaminated military bases containing only 14,401 individual
contaminated sites, ranging from jet fuel puddles floating on
underground drinking water supplies to patches of spilled plutonium
covered over (and covered up) by neglected and forgotten concrete slabs
now crumbling in the woods. They'll cost taxpayers an estimated $100 to
$200 billion to clean up. But this report just details domestic
military creations-the many overseas contributions made by our military
remain to be cataloged appreciatively another time. (More on this
important new report in future.)

ENEMY (Boston, MA: National Toxic Campaign Fund, 1991). Executive
summary available for $2.00; full 128-page report available for $20.00
from: Military Toxics Network, 2802 East Madison, Suite 177, Seattle,
WA 98112. (206) 328-5257. Must read.

--Peter Montague


Descriptor terms: persian gulf; petroleum industry; military toxics;

Error. Page cannot be displayed. Please contact your service provider for more details. (29)