Sunday, January 29, 2012

from Midlife Crisis with Dick and Jane

I have been thinking about places like Cheshire, Ohio and Martin County, Kentucky these days when we are trying to keep fracking out of our area. The only silver lining is that people of very different political leanings are joined in their opposition to the fracking: Republicans, Democrats, Tea-partiers, and Occupiers . . . which is not to say there are not people who want the money and are not concerned about the consequences. Below are two pieces from Midlife Crisis with Dick and Jane on the topic.

Cheshire, Ohio*

Once Dick dreamt he wasn’t married to Jane. He didn’t have two children, and he didn’t live in Spendersville, Ohio. Wherever he walked, whatever street or shop he visited, no one recognized him, and he saw no one he knew. Above him the sky turned to smoke, and people with faces of ghosts drifted aimlessly around him. Where am I? One man pointed to a sign, Cheshire, Ohio. Home of the Cheshire cat, the man said, smiling widely as everything disappeared but his smile.

*Chesire, Ohio is the largest ghost town in the state of Ohio., a town so contaminated by American Electric Power’s massive coal-fueled power plant that when the EPA demanded they burn a lower-sulfur coal, clean up its act and submit to testing standards, the company decided it would be simpler to buy the entire town and silence its citizens.

Happy Together
for all the reporters at

Dick never believed those stories about Cheshire, Ohio, a town where people’s skin was burned by sulfuric clouds released from smokestacks. Or those tales of the mountain streams in Martin County, Kentucky and the Big Sandy River between Kentucky and West Virginia where the pollution from mountain top removal caused water to turn black with cold sludge, and all aquatic life was lost. Maybe he’d have believed them if they took place in another world, a third world, like Ecuador or Bolivia, but not in Dick’s world. He dismissed such news as left-wing propaganda, right up there with global warming, endangered species, and mercury pollution (had anyone else read that absurd study claiming that 630,00 children are born in this country each year with mercury blood levels high enough to cause neurological damage?). He mocked the environmentalist’s claims that oil-drilling in the Arctic National Refuge would affect the caribou’s calving season, that herbicides like Atrazine entered the drinking water of the Midwest and caused prostate cancer in men and deformities in frogs, fish and other wildlife such as missing or multiple sets of organs. What did folks want? To give the world to the insects? The frogs?


Lyle Daggett said...

Sometime back during the late 1970's or early 1980's -- I don't remember exactly now -- there were several mysterious sudden deaths of Hmong immigrant people in St. Paul and Minneapolis. (Minneapolis and St. Paul have the largest Hmong immigrant population in the United States.) Autopsies eventually determined that the deaths were the result of mercury poisoning, caused by eating fish (contaminated with mercury) that the people had caught in the Mississippi River.

I don't remember now if anyone figured out what the specific original source of the mercury was. There's a lot of industry along the river. The Mississippi River is the main source of drinking water for Minneapolis and St. Paul and a number of the suburbs.

The city or county or state, one of the government agencies, issued an official advisory warning people not to eat fish caught in the river. They specifically sent Hmong-speaking workers into the communities to help give out the information.

Sometime back during the same timeframe (early 1980's, as I'm remembering), the Environmental Protection Agency kept a list of the most polluted places in the U.S., the top 150 sites or something like that. The place at the top of the list -- the most polluted location in the U.S. -- was a place in the northern suburbs of Minneapolis and St. Paul, near a federal military weapons arsenal and a couple of factories that made military weapons.

In one of the suburbs in the same area is a place currently high on the short list of proposed locations for a new football stadium for the Minnesota Vikings.

Nin Andrews said...

Wow, that's a scary story. Do you think the stadium will go there?

TC said...

Now and to come...

The New America is a ruin.

Nin Andrews said...

Yes, it's so upsetting. And what always angers me is the whole "clean coal" argument. And then the idea of sequestering, which isn't happening but sounds good. Then you look at a map of the US with all the places we have already dumped one toxic thing or another and you wonder . . .

Lyle Daggett said...

Don't know yet if the stadium will go there, there are three or four locations that the politicians and business people are arguing about. The site in the northern suburbs was the earlier proposed site, and the news has reported several times that the Vikings owners wanted the new stadium to go there. But probably nobody will know for sure till there's finally a deal and the required people sign on the dotted line.