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The Ohio victims no one is talking about: Wildlife

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Adrienne Lawrence

Legal analyst, law professor & award-winning author

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While the EPA is telling residents of East Palestine, Ohio that tests on their drinking water aren’t showing any contaminants linked to the toxic train wreck, not everyone is convinced. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources estimates that more than 40,000 small fish have died following the disaster on Feb. 3. Now reports are trickling in of other animals in the area getting sick. Chickens are losing their feathers, a dog has been diagnosed with chemical poisoning, another dog is suddenly paralyzed, a few birds have died, and a horse has diarrhea.

As Straight Arrow News contributor Adrienne Lawrence explains, it’s going to be a while before we know how much the train derailment has disrupted the area’s ecosystem.

While politicians try to use the train crash in East Palestine, Ohio — really to push their agenda with the people of the swing state there — there is an important segment of that community that is getting ignored: wildlife. 

Late last week, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources updated their calculations on how many aquatic animals were impacted by that 38-car derailment that really shot that highly volatile gas up in the air. And officials: They’re now estimating that the event has killed at least 43,700 aquatic animals within a five-mile radius of East Palestine. That’s 10 times more wildlife harmed than officials initially predicted. It’s also a reflection of the fact that keeping “capitalism as king” will kill our environment and eventually us. But we’ve known that, what, for at least a century now?

With increased human population and transportation, we’re really seeing greenhouse gas emissions jettison. Global temperatures are taking off with the sea levels too. Capitalism is a driving force of climate change. And we in the United States are in the conductor’s chair.

Our nation encourages mass consumption. You know, the more you have, the better you are. And this push to consume depletes resources. We’ve seen this as fossil fuels dwindle and natural resources diminish. As a result, the environment is being unsustainably exploited, and we the people are the ones footing the bill. According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, the U.S. has sustained 341 weather and climate disasters since 1980 — those with overall damages that are exceeding $1 billion that is. And the total cost of these events exceeds $2.5 trillion. 

While politicians try to use the train crash in East Palestine, Ohio – really to push their agenda with the people of the swing state there, – there is an important segment of that community that is getting ignored:  wildlife. 

Late last week, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources updated their calculations on how many aquatic animals were impacted by that thirty-eight car derailment that really shot that highly volatile gas up in the air. And officials, they’re now estimating that the event has killed at least forty-three thousand seven hundred aquatic animals within a five mile radius of East Palestine. That’s ten times more wildlife harmed than officials initially predicted. It’s also a reflection of the fact that keeping “capitalism is king” will kill our environment and eventually us. But we’ve known that, what, for at least a century now. With increased human population and transportation, we’re really seeing greenhouse gas emissions jettison. Global temperatures are taking off with the sea levels too. Capitalism is a driving force of climate change. And we in the United States are in the conductor’s share. Our nation encourages mass consumption. You know, the more you have, the better you are. And this push to consume depletes resources. We’ve seen this as fossil fuels dwindle and natural resources diminish. As a result, the environment is being unsustainably exploited, and we the people are the ones footing the bill. According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, the US has sustained 341 weather and climate disasters since 1980 – those with overall damages that are exceeding 1 billion that is. And the total cost of these events exceeds $2.5 trillion. 

We need not even get into the cost of environmental racism and other offshoots of our capitalistic drive. At bottom, corporations find it far more cost effective to mass produce, to pump out harmful emissions and to take state-sanctioned shortcuts, than they actually do what’s right. The focus is the short-term profits because, you know, to today’s corporations and politicians, the environmental costs aren’t high. Even the financial cost of these companies to fix the harm that they cause isn’t high. Just look at Norfolk Southern, which operated the train that carried those toxic chemicals and combustible materials through East Palestine. Now, according to investigators’ preliminary reports, the company followed protocol on the day of that February 3rd crash, but the derailment was entirely preventable. That should tell us that the precautions were available but were not taken. But hey, why invest in additional precautions if the government doesn’t mandate it? Right. You know what else the government isn’t mandating? Fines for Norfolk Southern. No, the EPA has made clear that it will only find the railway giant seventy thousand a day if the agency has to step up and help out with cleanup. Sure, the company has said it’s going to commit $5.6 million toward East Palestine. But that’s chump change. The CEO of Norfolk Southern banked $13.3 million last year, that’s more than twice the amount committed to the Ohio town. And the company itself made over $3.2 billion in revenue just in the fourth quarter of last year. These companies are raking in the profits at the expense of human lives and the environment. We have a government and leaders who are equipped and empowered to stop this, to really check these companies and force them to change their ways to protect the people and the precious animals that have no power in Congress. But our lawmakers and leaders have no desire to disrupt the reign of capitalism.

Even Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, he seems to be talking a good game, which,  he’s great at his persuasive messaging, but acting utterly powerless when it comes to taking action.

 

I am tired of watching our environment deteriorate, because corporations want coins. In the rivers and creeks surrounding East Palestine, nearly forty thousand small fish and six thousand other creatures are dead as a result of the derailment. 

Think about how that sudden loss will impact the ecosystem there from disrupting the food chain to changing how wildlife in the area survives. I’m no aquatic expert or wildlife biologist but common sense tells me that the environmental impact of that train derailment will have a ripple effect. And that effect will be felt not only by the people of East Palestine and their surrounding communities, but by the living creatures that can’t be anything other than bipartisan.

 

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