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#96 - Strategy Meeting For Activists Planned In Pittsburgh October 1; Wave Of Actions Being Consider, 25-Sep-1988

A strategy meeting for grass roots toxics activists has been called on
very short notice: it will take place at the Hilton Airport Inn in
Pittsburgh this Saturday, October 1, from 9 to 5. Everyone is welcome.
Here's the background:

Since earth day in 1970, we have organized marches and cause days, sit-
ins and occupations. We've passed laws and published tomes, and
stimulated the spending of billions of dollars 'to protect' the
environment. Yet our nation is producing more poisons than ever before,
and we still have epidemics of occupationally-caused diseases, wasted
communities, wasted lands and waters. At the same time, the political
and economic power of the poisoners keeps increasing.

Polls constantly show the American people favor healthy communities,
wise use of resources and clean environments. But too many people
obviously do not believe they have the power to oppose the destruction
that continues in our midst.

The meeting Oct. 1 is to discuss strategies for ACTIONS to show people
that the power of the polluters can be curbed. The meeting is being
held now to discuss a wave of actions that could start right after the

Grass roots activists know that the elections will not make a major
difference in our fights. The faces of our adversaries may change but
the issues of toxics and resource destruction will not be handled very
differently under a new administration than under the old. This is not
to say the candidates are equal; they are not, and anyone who has been
paying attention during the past eight years will know which way to
vote and will know that it is essential to vote. But the point is, even
if the better candidate is elected, the tasks before us will not change

Some grass roots activists are convinced that the period between the
elections and the start of the new administration is the best time to
stage some coordinated actions against carefully selected targets who
represent the worst health threats to humans and to the environment.
The actions would be designed to focus attention, prick the conscience
of the nation, energize toxics fighters and community activists,
attract new supporters, and send a potent message to those newly

Among the goals might be:

** to legitimize toxics and community protests; ** to encourage
stepped-up organizing and action; ** to move toward racial unity and
geographic solidarity; ** to help guardians of the status quo to
overreact and err; ** to stop some poisoning and save some lives; ** to
set the stage for more comprehensive achievements.

The movement for environmental justice is capable now of initiating a
series of coordinated actions aimed at galvanizing public support for
an entirely new agenda for dealing with toxics. The old ways have
clearly not worked.

The original call for this meeting appeared in a little paper published
at irregular intervals, called the WRENCHING DEBATE GAZETTE. Issues No.
4 and 5 focused on reasons why we need this meeting. The GAZETTE is
free from publisher Richard Grossman, at 1801 Connecticut Ave., NW, 2nd
floor, Washington, DC 20009; phone (202) 387-1000. Our 2nd and 3rd
paragraphs (above) are taken almost verbatim from GAZETTE No. 4.

Driving in? The Hilton Airport Inn can be reached via Route 60; get off
at the Cliff Mine Road exit. The hotel's phone is (412) 262-3800; a
single room is $50 for the night--some discount off this price will be
arranged. Lunch will not be served, so you're on your own at mealtime.

--Peter Montague



Facing lawsuits today, facing victims harmed by industrial pollution,
the captains of industry plead ignorance as a defense. They say, "We
didn't know. Twenty years ago, we didn't know these chemicals were
toxic. We didn't know that putting them into the ground would
contaminate the soil or the groundwater. We were ignorant. We're sorry,
but it's isn't our fault. No one knew."

As we continue our series, "What we must do," we will now examine the
truth behind such claims. After all, if destruction of the earth's
resources by chemical dumping has happened because of ignorance, then
one set of remedies will seem appropriate. If, on the other hand,
destruction of the earth and the poisoning of people has been
deliberate, then the remedies we seek must be quite different.

We have spent this past summer looking carefully at the history of
American industry and its effects on the earth and on people. In the
next few weeks, we will present evidence that 30 years ago--in the
1950s (and in many cases long before)--the full consequences of
environmental pollution were recognized. The geographic extent of the
problem was not known, but individual polluters had in hand all the key
pieces of information that they needed and that they have today.
Specifically, they knew about the hazards of the chemicals being
handled, the consequences of air pollution, the whys and wherefors of
water pollution, including both surface and groundwater pollution. The
problems associated with landfilling were recognized. The creation of
what we call Superfund sites was understood as it was happening. The
present situation did not come about by accident or by inadvertence. It
came about because of deliberate decisions.

Furthermore, government agencies had available to them the same
information that industry had. In many cases, governments had better
information because they could see the big picture as the information
flowed in. Government agencies chose to interpret their situation to
conclude that they did not have legal power to curb the pollution, but
they clearly had plenty of power to study the problems, publicize the
problems and generate public support for curbing the flagrant
destruction of people and the earth. The failure of governments adds up
to a story of timid collusion.

Industry and government knew in the 1950s that all landfills and
lagoons leak. No one even argued otherwise. So far as we can determine,
the first people who started saying that "secure landfills" could be
built were officials inside the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in
the early 1970s. We can find no peer-reviewed scientific or engineering
literature in which authors say they believe a leakproof landfill can
be built; these ideas seem to have been born only in reports created by
consulting firms and by government officials, reports not subject to
scientific peer review. Industrialists and government specialists knew
that chemicals dumped in the ground would contaminate soil and water.
They knew that poisoned air would make some people sick and that others
would be killed. This knowledge evidently made no difference to the
people in power. It is not a pretty picture.

In coming weeks, we will present evidence to support these conclusions.

--Peter Montague


Descriptor terms: environmentalists; strategies; agendas; citizen
activism; environmental justice; wrenching debate gazette; pa;
pittsburgh, pa; landfilling; water pollution; liability; epa; chemical