Sunday, October 14, 2007

Environmentalist in China Arrested for speaking out! Why it should matter to Americans.

Photo credits: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Photo credits: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Photo credits: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Mr. Wu was sentenced to three years in prison as retribution for blowing the whistle on local officials for allowing Lake Tai in Yixing, China to be used as a giant toilet. Mother Nature had her revenge though. The lake exploded with cyanobacteria and toxic fumes poured out of the lake, creating a hazard for 2.3 million people according to the New York Times.

Mr. Wu, who was sounding the alarm for years, is still sitting in prison from fake charges that he was tortured to confess to. There is a price that people pay in China for sounding the alarm and speaking out about the growing pollution problem.

Why should that matter to us in America? We all live downstream. Over time, all the pollution will move into the ecosystems and make their way into the oceans. The oceans touch us all in some way. But a more immediate concern is our food supply. Americans now import much of its food from other countries.

Here is a quote from the article:
“One letter from local farmers described how a nearby factor making 8-hydroxyquinoline, used as a deodorant and antiseptic, emitted noxious fumes that “make our days and nights impassible.” Another writer referred to a local factory as “ a new Unit 731” named after the Japanese team that conducted chemical warfare experiments in World War II.
Members of another group said they did not dare tend their rice paddies without wearing gloves and galoshes because irrigation water caused their skin to peel off."

How do we know where the rice that we eat is grown?
How do we know that this rice is not mixed into many of the products that we buy in our country? There is not labeling to show country of origin for any of the food that we eat. We are at risk because our own leaders are bought out by special interests who do not want the American consumer to know that we are buying food that is grown where the water is polluted. That is why it matters. Our food supply is at risk.

When you look at the pictures, for me it raises a moral issue as well. How can we, in good conscience, not care about the living conditions our consumer frenzy for cheap products helps create for these people. What about their rights? Do they have none? Would we like to trade places with them? I certainly don’t. Why is it OK to encourage commerce without requiring some type of worker and environmental protection?

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