Mother Earth and Uncle Sam: How Pollution and Hollow Government Hurt Our Kids

Mother Earth and Uncle Sam: How Pollution and Hollow Government Hurt Our Kids

Mother Earth and Uncle Sam: How Pollution and Hollow Government Hurt Our Kids

Mother Earth and Uncle Sam: How Pollution and Hollow Government Hurt Our Kids

Synopsis

In this compelling study, Rena Steinzor highlights the ways in which the government, over the past twenty years, has failed to protect children from harm caused by toxic chemicals. She believes these failures--under-funding, excessive and misguided use of cost/benefit analysis, distortion of science, and devolution of regulatory authority--have produced a situation in which harm that could be reduced or eliminated instead persists.Steinzor states that, as a society, we are neglecting our children's health to an extent that we would find unthinkable as individual parents, primarily due to the erosion of the government's role in protecting public health and the environment. At this pace, she asserts, our children will inherit a planet under grave threat. We can arrest these developments if a critical mass of Americans become convinced that these problems are urgent and the solutions are near at hand.By focusing on three specific case studies--mercury contamination through the human food chain, perchlorate (rocket fuel) in drinking water, and the effects of ozone (smog) on children playing outdoors--Steinzor creates an analysis grounded in law, economics, and science to prove her assertions about the existing dysfunctional system. Steinzor then recommends a concise and realistic series of reforms that could reverse these detrimental trends and serve as a blueprint for restoring effective governmental intervention. She argues that these recommendations offer enough material to guide government officials and advocacy groups toward prompt implementation, for the sake of America's--and the world's--future generations.

Excerpt

America entered the twenty-first century on top of the world. We had the most successful democratic government, the strongest economy, and a national defense second to none. We were universally acknowledged as the most powerful, if not the most popular, nation on earth. And we got that way by combining hard work, unprecedented civil liberties, and extraordinary fortune in the natural resources that endow the country. Many of us rail against the country and its culture. Few would live any other place.

Yet just as a new millennium of prosperity got under way, we suffered the most spectacular and terrifying attack by a foreign enemy in six decades. The collapse of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers affected our national politics in ways we have only begun to comprehend. Preoccupation with the newly named “War on Terror” swamped the public’s attention, and the decision to invade Iraq ensured that the nation remained preoccupied by a conflict that was both intractable and costly.

At this close historical distance, it is difficult to underestimate the impact of these events on the collective American consciousness. The dual traumas of September 11 and the Iraq war upset the country to the point that key elements of the body politic—Congress, the president, and the media—appear to have lost the ability to focus systematically on pressing domestic problems. Lack of focus has gradually evolved into chronic neglect. From health care to social welfare, from education to energy policy to pollution control, we find government dysfunction on a grand scale. These problems did not originate on September 11, 2001. But in the wake of those shocking events, the degeneration of federal government institutions has accelerated dramatically. The more dysfunctional those institutions become and the more alienated people feel, the higher the . . .

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