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On April 20, 2010, the infamous BP oil rig exploded. Americans and the rest of the world alike were in shock and feared how much oil would be released and how much damage it would do. After three months, the spillage of the oil was stopped and restoration has slowly begun. But what if there was a spill of something invisible and the company responsible wanted to keep it a secret. In the book Currents of Deceit, Professor Ronald Perkins writes about such a situation.
Currents of Deceit begins with Scott Simmons, a marine biologist with the Florida Fisheries Commission, and his girlfriend Linda Stevens, a graduate student in biochemistry. Perkins also wrote himself into the book as Dr. Alexander, Linda’s old professor, a character based on his own experiences and interests. In the book, Simmons and Stevens find unusually high levels of PCBs and mercury in fish from the local market They are immediately intrigued and worried by their discovery.
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Would a company purposefully and knowingly keep a dangerous environmental and public health threat secret in the name of profit? It's a rhetorical question of course because it happens all the time with pernicious consequences. What happens when the governmental regulatory agency, the EPA, participates in this kind of subterfuge by relying on powerful lobbying groups and industry insiders to be the 'scientific' sources for regulatory mandates?
We've seen this happen with coal ash and bio-solids (sewer sludge). The federal regulations for both of these were based on the recommendations of powerful lobbyists for special interests who's only consideration was the bottom line--the proverbial 'profit over people and sensibility' worn-out model they have been using now for decades.
Now big business has turned its sights on doing away with the only federal regulatory agency that stands between us and a repeat of the flaming rivers of the late 1960s.
The EPA is currently under unprecedented enemy fire from the republicans who are calling for de-funding the agency at minimum, and doing away with it all together at most, describing them as a "loony left-wing job killing organization that's hell bent on an environmentalist whacko vision."
There are problems with the EPA we'll agree, big ones, but to consistently fight against the only agency that we have in place to enforce regulations on corporate America is wrongheaded and dangerous. On the other side of the coin, for the EPA to consistently cave-in to special interests and allow the rules to be written by industry is equally disconcerting.
It's a catch-22 situation that illustrates the pressing need for watchdog journalists, environmental groups and citizen advocates to keep a keen eye on the system and its players. Activism is not a dirty word--apathy and indifference might be.
Winston Churchill warned of the age of indifference (paraphrasing):'You can only have so many decades and years that are the "last chance" to avoid unalterably horrific effects. We have already passed these points. The age of consequences has begun.'
We would be wise to remember that even though Mr. Perkins book is a 'fictional work' in the literal sense, malefic corporate "Currents of Deceit" are always swirling around our communities and it's incumbent upon us to pay attention.
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