What If #3

The Silent and Brave revison page #132

This is my third and final blog on the subject of three legal changes in America that could make a difference to our world and the planet we live on. This one is a carbon tax, on everyone.

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This photo is of the Anaconda Copper Mine in Yerington, Nevada. The open pit has flooded. Looks nice, huh? Such pretty blue water. Too bad it’s full of arsenic and uranium, which have been leaching into the groundwater and wells of the people who live in Yerington since the mine started operation.

Now here’s the real problem. No one really owns this place anymore. No one wants to admit owning it, because it’s a toxic dump. It started in 1918 as the Nevada Empire Mine, was sold to Anaconda in 1941, and became the largest producer of copper in the world. We needed it. We needed it for ammo for the war. We needed it for pipes for houses in the 1950’s, the golden age of the U. S. of A.

In the 70’s the price of copper took a dive, and we didn’t need the mine anymore. It was sold to Atlantic Ritchfield. The overseer of the property whistleblew, saying that it was doing bad things to the community, and got fired. In 1978, the mine was shut down. In 1980 it was sold to Arimetco, and went into use making copper for electronics. Arimetco went bankrupt and abandoned the site, leaving behind 90 million gallons of acid that is still sitting there. Guess what? Arimetco doesn’t even exist anymore, so good luck getting them to come get their acid.

So who bears the liability for the mess? It might be British Petroleum, which still owns the holdings of Atlantic Ritchfield. They agreed to pay 19.5 million to help clean up the site and help with the medical bills for the affected population. That they eagerly agreed to the settlement is sort of shocking, but it’s also very disingenuous. They were able to write off the problem without declaring fault. Upon closer inspection, it’s fairly easy to see that, #1, that’s nowhere near enough money, and #2, they covered up the extent of the damage for years and then got off with what was basically a slap on the wrist.

The Anaconda mine has been declared an EPA Superfund Site, which allows federal dollars to be spent on the cleanup. The responsibility has passed out of the hands of the corporations who caused the problem, and now it lies with the government, because the problem is that big. However, the people who live and farm in Yerington don’t want the Superfund designation, because of the negative publicity. So for years the state of Nevada has been fighting the Superfund designation, while the toxic chemicals continue to leach into the land and water. On May 29th, governer Brian Sandoval finally said enough is enough, let’s get this place cleaned up, but it remains to be seen if it will happen or if it’s even possible.

Human beings choose the places we want to live and then we alter the environment in those places to make them suitable to us. We build cities, and divert rivers, and cover the earth with concrete. We tear down forests and drive cars across what were once beautiful stretches of emptiness, filling the skies with emissions. We eliminate other creatures as we see fit, for their skins or their tusks, or by accident. We raise up in the name of progress. In the process, we destroy what was there before us.

So I think we should all pay a price. I don’t know how much. I am sure the corporations will complain, but that’s why we all have to do it. Those who can’t afford to pay the tax could work off their debt by planting trees, or cleaning up trash along the trails where hikers who pretend to be obsessed with natural beauty have tossed it.

Why do we all have to pay, when it is the corporations who have done the most damage? Because we need to shame them into paying too. If you and I have to pay, we will do a better job of making sure they also have to pay.

They will try to get out of it. They’re laughing right now, because they don’t know why this hasn’t already happened. They can’t believe that they aren’t responsible for the mess they have made, in the name of the almighty dollar. They’re certainly not going to admit fault or start paying on their own. They will continue to start companies and fold companies, and their left-behind waste will build up at roughly the same rates as their bank accounts.

I can hear your reasons why a carbon tax can’t happen already in my head. Yes, I am sure that the administration of such a tax would create a mess of beauracracy that would add to the problem. I’m sure that the funds would be appropriated for other, “more pressing” needs. I am sure that some of the money would be stolen outright. I’m sure that big corporations will figure out ways around the tax, or just move to other countries to avoid it.

That doesn’t change the fact that it’s the right thing to do. We have all contributed to messing up Mother Earth. We should all be required to help make her clean again.

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