“One out of ten Americans live within ten miles of a Super Fund site.” — E.G. Vallianatos
I gave a speech to educators a little over two years ago at a Social Forum in San Jose, California. In it I noted that I had conducted a survey a year before targeting academics, community leaders, students and staff at local educational institutions and many others in the area. References were made to Super Fund sites which festooned the South Bay, including the forum’s host city. Some of those sites were extremely hazardous, I noted, but virtually no one who I had interviewed (among 102) knew anything about the locations of that toxicity.
I underscored the dangers of such sites, and offered to provide a list of local locations, upon request, following my speech; in case anyone had to run I gave out my contact information, offering to interact at any hour on any day down the road. And since some in attendance were not from the region, I also emphasized that attendees could secure a list of Super Fund sites from me for whatever realm they lived, worked, played, studied or hung out on occasion. All gratis.
l’m writing this piece because I want you to know that no one took me up on my offer. The same gesture, by the way, went out to no avail too to over a couple of hundred other educators et al. since my appearance at that Social Forum.
What are teachers teaching? The ones I’ve crossed paths with lately not only don’t know about the location of such threats in their communities, they don’t seem to care to learn about them (so that they can spread the word). The former has to do with ignorance, the latter with stupidity, not wanting to know about something one is ignorant about.
I trust that this will be instructive for anyone exclusively engaged in providing information to the general public. For if educators aren’t candidates for learning and actually doing something about one of our major collective crises, we need to go about disseminating facts and figures in a different way, perhaps.
Conduct your own experiment, if you will. Google your town and plug in “home facts” to see what’s in your area. Then secure responses along the lines that I did, testing to see if you come up with equally negative results. Keep in mind too that Super Fund sites don’t have to be your only focus; check out the other environmental hazards associated with your realm too.
There’s one other point to note, though, in reviewing the status of Super Fund sites in your area. You’ll notice that there are different categories used under that umbrella. For instance, there are 6 Active NPL sites for San Jose and many more of what’s labeled archived sites, representing sites which, supposedly, do not pose any danger to the general public. But those sites that the EPA has designated as nothing to be concerned about beg the question of whether or not we can trust that corrupt federal agency’s designations.
As per many reports in recent years which describe the EPA as incompetent or corrupt, including E.G. Vallianatos’ Poison Spring, we have no reason whatsoever to trust their public evaluations of Super Fund sites… or anything else.
The scorecard’s in on the EPA. And it seems as if we can’t count on educators to teach any of us about the public health dangers with which that that agency is being irresponsible.
So… the question has to be what we’re going to do about it ourselves.
Richard Oxman has been an educator and activist for over half-a-century. He has a viable option for dealing with this issue, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org