Now we know

I guess we have all heard the comment, “You don’t want to know.”  If it is followed up with “but you need to know”, we usually listen.  I kind of thought of myself relatively well educated.  I felt I understand the risks of modern life relatively well.  I always wear my seat belt.  I go to the doctor regularly for check-ups and cancer screenings.  But, I had no idea about Flint.  Worst, I was living in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area when the lead poisoning went on there, and I remember very little of it.

Last semester I learned that all the creeks and rivers in the Washington, D.C. area are so polluted with PCB’s that the Virginia Dept. of Wildlife recommends you limit yourself to eating only one fish a month caught in this area and you never  eat fatty fish (e.g. carp) caught around here.  Now the bad news is running into my house from the pipes.  My home is no longer a refuge, it is the contaminant.

We started the semester questioning the relationship between experts and the public and how power and justice are distributed.   We learned more and more about the water crisis in D.C. and Flint.  We had engaging and thoughtful  guest speakers.  We were able to interview someone who was on the ground in Flint and get to learn their story.  And yet, I end the class with a feeling of powerlessness.  I even ask myself, wouldn’t it be nice to go back to the ignorant bliss of a few months ago?  I can skip eating fish from the creek.  I cannot skip drinking water.

So, the question is where do we go from here?  Is water quality and environmental justice a new project for everyone?  Was this class a sophisticated recruitment  vehicle?  The problem is this – if a Flint-type situation occurred in our neighborhood in the future, I think we would be better equipped to deal with the situation.  We would at least know to call Yanna.  But, could we forgive ourselves for not doing something about it sooner, because we know.  Now we know.

One Reply to “Now we know”

  1. These are important philosophical and existential questions, and although the class was not meant as a “recruitment vehicle” (ha! funny!), I think it will take many more of us demanding adequate protection from lead in water for this protection to be finally granted. EPA has given us multiple signs already that it is not going to strengthen the LCR, and in fact that it will probably comply with water utility industry wishes to weaken it even further.

    My question for you is this:

    In learning more about the pollution of creeks and rivers in the DC area last semester, and about lead in drinking water this semester, what do you now know? Do you know more only about local creeks, rivers, and tap water or do you also know more about structural inequities and deficiencies we are conditioned to accept as “normal,” which might be placing our very health and wellbeing at risk? Is it possible that what you now know raises questions about additional realities and arrangements that we may take for granted as “good” or “effective” or “sufficient,” when in fact they are something different?

    For me, personally, the lead-in-water fight is a fight about justice, about just policy, about just science, about democracy, and about social change. In some ways, I view lead in water as a “vehicle” for pushing for larger societal shifts. I can see myself pushing for the same shifts through other “vehicles” (like, for example, polluted creeks and rivers in the DC area) that I view as equally unacceptable manifestations of the same larger societal brokenness that allowed the crises in DC and Flint.

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