“The glory which is built upon a lie soon becomes a most unpleasant incumbrance…” Mark Twain wrote prophetically in his autobiography. “How easy it is to make people believe a lie, and how hard it is to undo that work again!”
Embodied in these two sentences of Twain’s is the elaborate, virtually unmappable landscape of deception created by the Pollution Industrial Complex in the United States. A similar quotation attributed to Twain is even handier: “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them they have been fooled.”
I got to thinking about Twain over the last couple of weeks after I read about the impact of the federal government shutdown on biological pollution prevention and food safety inspections when hundreds of thousands of federal workers were furloughed. We have a relatively safe food supply because of federal regulations and the public employees who enforce them.
Then I read of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s hopeful and prudent move of having New Mexico join the 18-state U.S. Climate Change Alliance, an organization aimed at getting the United States to indirectly support the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. I got to thinking how much time and money the foolers of climate change have spent to fool us into believing global warming is fake news and a general delusion. What an “incumbrance” it has become to try to undo their self-serving steamroller of lies, slick tricks and insidious bamboozlements.
What really got me thinking about the Lie Masters and Dissemblers of the
Pollution Industrial Complex was a 40-page report generated late last month by Citizen Action of New Mexico and its Executive Director Dave McCoy entitled “Hidden from the Public – Secret Documents About the Flawed Investigation of the Kirtland Airforce Base Jet Fuel and Aviation Gas Contamination of the Albuquerque Drinking Water Aquifer.” It’s a damning compendium of evidence and exemplifies how hard it is to counter the fibbing and fooling of the Department of Defense, the major customer of the Pollution Industrial Complex.
Major manufacturers, chemical corporations, tobacco companies, food processing giants, mining operations, the fossil fuel industry, nuclear R and D facilities, military bases — especially Air Force bases and their government bureaucracies — have all spent billions of dollars fooling the American people into believing that pollution is not an inevitable byproduct of their operational processes, one that they can either prevent, clean up, or deny. They have worked steadfastly to create a media atmosphere in which accusations of pollution are portrayed as dishonest slurs and slanders by environmentalists against righteous job-creating companies and our military “heroes” who are just trying to do their jobs and fulfill their missions. The Pollution Industrial Complex tries, with all its might and money, to fool us into believing that’s so. It’s an Alfred E. Newman situation: “Pollution? What, me worry?”
When cutting corners to protect a budget or pad a profit margin, pollution is usually the first corner that’s cut. If they can hide it, spin lies about it, or paint environmentalists as irrational hysterics and “eco-terrorists,” then they don’t have to pay for the pollution they produce. It’s really as simple as that. And it seems to be a ubiquitous phenomenon.
Of course, not all companies are malign polluters. But dirty air, greenhouse gas pollution, jet fuel contaminated aquifers, mining waste ravaged river systems, nuclear pollution invading urban water systems, rural fracking befouling local water supplies, herbicides and pesticides and myriad other hazardous products and waste haven’t just come from the Grinch who stole Christmas.
Cutting corners on pollution is both public policy on the part of the DOE and the DOD and corporate strategy on the part of many of the world’s great companies. In both cases it is designed to cut costs at the expense of the public’s health.
Citizen Action’s report on “secret documents” hidden from the public about the Kirtland Air Force Base (KAFB) jet fuel spill and other “aviation gas contamination” is the perfect example of this kind of conscious internal policy that translates into foot dragging and obfuscating over the hazardous waste byproducts of the Air Force.
It’s not as if KAFB was the Air Force’s only base with groundwater pollution issues. Every AFB I have researched in the Southwest, and on both coasts, have similar if not identical issues. KAFB just happens to be the biggest jet fuel spill, whether it’s 24 million gallons or 5 million. It is monstrous. Can it be that the Air Force is so universally inept with its hazardous wastes? Or is the flubbed public discourse, glacial clean up and various technical vagaries and inconsistencies a matter of their “business plan,” unstated or not?
Dave McCoy’s report shows how some of their tactics work. McCoy writes, “From 2014 to 2018, a secret arrangement between KAFB and government regulatory agencies (largely in the administration of former governor, Susana Martinez) responsible for cleanup of the massive multi-million gallon jet fuel and aviation gas spill led them to withhold from the public dozens of technical documents totaling hundreds of pages. The public was cut out of the loop about unresolved technical concerns and the often bungled investigation regarding a moving plume of disease and cancer-causing chemicals, heading for Albuquerque’s water supply wells.” You can check out the full report by contacting Dave McCoy at Citizen Action New Mexico.
Trying to define the strategies of the Pollution Industrial Complex isn’t the work of some nutball conspiracy theorists spinning tall tales. When the recent federal government shutdown dragged on for weeks, an organization that I’m sure most of us have never heard of — Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) — alerted us to the frightening situation that federal food inspectors weren’t able to do their job. Protecting the public’s health was simply sacrificed to Trumpian politics. And PEER, of course, was not alone. Virtually every non-profit environmental watchdog group, and there are hundreds of them, was alarmed by the shutdown not only of “government” but of its large and complicated network of regulatory functions. As the headline of a news release shared by PEER put it: “Federal Shutdown Becoming a Polluters (sic) Holiday.”
There’s even a strong possibility, now, that New Mexico state government, under Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, will get serious about its environmental and regulatory responsibilities to protect the public’s health. The Pollution Industrial Complex would be aghast, but the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), and the Legislature, might actually get hardnosed about all the mining, fracking, smokestacks and military waste despoiling our state. They might even demand “transparency” from the Air Force, and even find a way to force it to spend the money needed to speed up decontaminating the menacing plume of befoulants threatening a considerable portion of our water supply. Many New Mexicans would applaud any show of determined strength by the NMED, even if it meets with strong Trumpian and conservative resistance. Anything less than an all-out effort would betray the heart and soul of the Democratic election victory last November.
*Nullius in verba: take nobody’s word for it
(Image derived from photo by Chris McInnis)