I read this article in the Chronicle about a month ago, and its been festering in the back of my mind since then. I didn’t want to let it pass without mentioning it on my blog. Essentially- if you haven’t heard- scientists recently sampled fish living in Crystal Springs Reservoir, the source of drinking water for much of the San Francisco Bay Area, and they found some of the highest levels of mercury- a powerful neurotoxin- in any body of water anywhere in the state.
They suspect that the mercury is being carried from Chinese coal fired power stations by clouds across the Pacific, where it is deposited across California in the form of rain, leaving a toxic residue across the land, where it builds up in bodies of water, including reservoirs, and bodies of fish and other animals (like us).
It’s pretty clear that our attempt to distance ourselves from dirty manufacturing by offshoring factories in places where poor brown people live has been a tragic, shortsighted failure. We live on a small planet, and we cannot run from the effects of our excess consumption.
What I’m having a hard time understanding is this: when a multinational corporation wants to set up shop in 100 different countries, getting a permit to operate, citing its factories where labor is cheap and selling its products where the money is, there is no problem. But when it comes to enforcing international environmental issues like toxic mercury pollution or climate change, we are told we are powerless.
According to Tim Ramirez of the State’s water board, “if it’s airborne pollution from a global source, that’s going to be hard for us to do something about.”
I beg to differ. We can begin to charge corporations the real price of manufacturing their products in a filthy, irresponsible way. We can force them to pay for the externalities that they impose on the rest of us with impunity.
And individually, we can stop buying cheap plastic crap that we don’t really need.