[permaculture] Peasant Sovereignty? Book Reviews
lfljvenaura at gmail.com
Tue Mar 24 02:06:00 EDT 2015
On Mon, Mar 23, 2015 at 5:11 PM, Lawrence London <lfljvenaura at gmail.com>
> Peasant Sovereignty?
> March 18, 2015
> By Evaggelos Vallianatos
Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA
February 23, 2015
*Book Author: Evaggelos Vallianatos with McKay Jenkins*
Reviewed by: Carol Van Strum
“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts,” Richard Feynman
<http://www.richardfeynman.com/> famously declared in 1966. Ever quick to
challenge accepted wisdom, he distinguished the laudable ignorance of
science, forever seeking unattainable certainties, from the dangerous
ignorance of experts who professed such certainty.
Twenty years later, he would drop a rubber ring into a glass of ice water
to show a panel of clueless rocket experts how willful ignorance of basic
temperature effects likely caused the Challenger shuttle disaster (1).
Experts with delusions of certainty create imitative forms of science, he
warned, producing* “the kind of tyranny we have today in the many
institutions that have come under the influence of pseudoscientific
Feynman’s warning against faith in the phony trappings of* “cargo cult
science” *fell on deaf ears. Policies affecting every aspect of our lives
are now based on dangerous forms of ignorance.
A prime case in point is the noble edifice of the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency, where a high-ranking EPA official was recently jailed
and fined for collecting pay and bonuses for decades of non-existent work
while he claimed to be working elsewhere for the CIA
Such long-standing fraud would hardly come as a surprise to Evaggelos
Vallianatos, who toiled for a quarter of a century in the EPA’s Pesticide
Division, ostensibly responsible for protecting human health and the
environment from commercial poisons. His new book, *Poison Spring: The
Secret History of Pollution and the EPA*, documents a culture of fraud and
corruption infesting every corner and closet of the agency.
The EPA, created with much fanfare by Richard Nixon in 1970, was an agency
crippled at birth by inadequate funding, political hypocrisy, and laws
protecting industry profits above all. Vallianatos points out that one of
the fledgling agency’s greatest handicaps was its initial staffing with
personnel from USDA, steeped in the religion of corporate agriculture and
lethal technologies. With USDA staff came also USDA’s outdated pesticide
registrations, which were to be reviewed and reregistered by EPA. In
addition, hundreds of new pesticide applications accumulated every year,
each supported by industry-produced safety studies to meet new federal
requirements. Hired as scientists, EPA staffers spent their time cutting
and pasting industry studies and conclusions into rubber-stamped
registration approvals. Under industry-crafted laws, once a pesticide was
registered, it could never be unregistered without massive, unequivocal
evidence of harm.
As if such misuse of science weren’t bad enough, audits by FDA and EPA soon
found that most of the thousands of industry safety studies used to approve
pesticide registrations were fraudulent. Alerted by FDA scientist Adrian
Gross, EPA had discovered in 1976 that Industrial BioTest Laboratories
[IBT], which had conducted many of the pesticide safety tests submitted to
EPA by manufacturers, had been routinely faking tests, falsifying data, and
altering results for years. Subsequent investigations of other testing
laboratories found similar practices in more than half the labs whose tests
supported EPA registrations of pesticides.
“IBT was not a unique case of scientific fraud,” Vallianatos writes, “it
was emblematic of a dark and deviant scientific culture, a ‘brave new
science’ with deep roots throughout agribusiness, the chemical industry,
universities, and the government.” (3)
In 1979, during the seven years of EPA dithering over this scandal,
Vallianatos came to work at EPA. He soon learned that not a single
pesticide registration was to be canceled due to fraudulent or nonexistent
test data. Instead, he notes, EPA’s reaction was to outsource science. It
shut down its own testing laboratories, closed its own libraries of
toxicity data on thousands of chemicals, and outsourced all evaluations of
industry-sponsored studies. *“The unspoken understanding in this
outsourcing of government functions has been the near certainty of finding
industry data satisfactory – all the time.” *This issue is relevant today,
given that chemicals such as 2,4-D and glyphosate (Roundup™), whose uses
have been vastly increased by GMO practices, were originally registered on
the basis of invalid IBT studies.
During Vallianatos’s first year at EPA,1980, some 1.1 billion pounds of
pesticide active ingredients were applied to U.S. food crops, a number that
does not include home and garden uses, parklands, golf courses, playing
fields, and municipal landscapes. In 2011, two billion pounds of pesticides
were sold in the U.S. Most if not all of those pesticides lacked valid
testing data then, and still lack such data today. Furthering the fraud,
Vallianatos points out, the active ingredient is only the tip of the
iceberg, being as little as one percent of the product; the remainder is a
trade secret stew of untested, unknown “inert” ingredients that are often
more toxic than the active ingredients. What he calls* “The Big Business of
Fraudulent Science” *has replaced even the semblance of environmental
Poison Spring chronicles some of the consequences of that fraud in an
agency snared in its own tangled lies: cover-ups of dioxin levels in
drinking water and in dead babies; routine suppression of data linking
pesticides to soaring rates of cancer, birth defects, and chronic disease;
industry access to everything; “revolving door” administrators serving
corporate bosses; political appointees dismantling EPA labs and data
libraries to dispose of damaging evidence; the cutting of research funds
for nontoxic alternatives; the harsh retribution visited on whistleblowers;
and ever and again, bureaucrats, with full knowledge of the consequences,
setting policies that result in death and suffering. For 25 years,
Vallianatos saw and documented it all.
“EPA officials know global chemical and agribusiness industries are
manufacturing science,” Vallianatos writes*. “They know their products are
dangerous…. [EPA] scientists find themselves working in a roomful of
funhouse mirrors, plagiarizing industry studies and cutting and pasting the
findings of industry studies as their own.”*
“This entire book is, in a sense, about a bureaucracy going mad,”
Bureaucracy does not go mad by itself, however. Public indifference to the
ignorance of experts and public tolerance of lies are what allow such
madness to flourish, enabled by the scientific community’s silence.
Inexorably, Vallianatos found,* “science and policy themselves have been
made a prop to the pesticides industry and agribusiness.”*
Such monumental fraud demands drastic remedies, which Vallianatos bravely
urges: rebuild an EPA completely independent from industry and politics,
remove incentives for huge scale, chemically-dependent corporate
agriculture, and address the underlying problem by encouraging small family
farms and agriculture without chemical warfare.
“Traditional (and often organic) farmers – until seventy-five years ago,
the only farmers there were – are slowly beginning to make a comeback.
They have always known how to raise crops and livestock without industrial
poisons,” Vallianatos points out. * “They are the seed for a future harvest
of good food, a healthy natural world, and democracy in rural America – and
These are facts, and this is a book that scientists and citizens alike
ignore at great peril.
(1) See his account of the investigation into the Challenger disaster in *What
Do You Care What Other People Think?* By Richard P. Feynman, 1988.
(2) Richard Feynman, *What is Science?*
<http://www.fotuva.org/feynman/what_is_science.html>Presented at the
fifteenth annual meeting of the National Science Teachers Association, 1966
in New York City, and reprinted from The Physics Teacher Vol. 7, issue 6,
1969, pp. 313-320 by permission of the editor and the author.
(3) For more information about the extent of this lab fraud, see *A Bitter
Fog: Herbicides and Human Rights*
by Carol Van Strum, 1983, revised 2014 with full texts of Peter von
Stackelberg’s exposé of the issue in a new appendix.
ISBN: 1608199142 Bloomsbury Press (2014
The Real Cost of Fracking: How America’s Shale Gas Boom Is Threatening Our
Families, Pets, and Food
November 24, 2014
*Book Authors:* *Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald*
*Reviewed by Allison Wilson
Bioscience Resource Project)*
The first researchers to systematically document ill health in livestock,
pets, and people living near fracking drill sites were Michelle Bamberger
and Robert Oswald. Bamberger, a veterinarian, and Oswald, a professor of
molecular medicine at Cornell University, used a case study
approach–looking at individual households–to search for possible effects
(Bamberger and Oswald 2012).
Many fracking chemicals are known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors or
other classes of toxins (Colborn et al. 2011). Bamberger and Oswald’s
studies, carried out during the ongoing fracking boom, uncovered serious
adverse effects including respiratory, reproductive, and growth-related
problems in animals and a spectrum of symptoms in humans that they termed
“shale gas syndrome”. Ultimately, their research led them to consider
fracking’s broader implications for farming and the food system (Bamberger
and Oswald 2012 and 2014).
Their new book, *The Real Cost of Fracking: How America’s Shale Gas Boom Is
Threatening Our Families, Pets, and Food* describes the results of this
research. However, it is by showing the pervasiveness of fracking’s harmful
effects on the lives of the householders that Bamberger and Oswald best
convey its true costs.
The Real Cost of Fracking
The strategy of including animals in their research was based on the
supposition that the shorter lifecycles and higher exposure of animals to
contaminants makes them “early warning systems” for environmental hazards
(Reif 2011, Rabinowitz et al. 2010, Van der Schalie et al. 1999). Further,
since these were often food animals, exposed or sickened animals could
directly become human food system hazards.
*Detailed Case Studies*
In their 2012 publication, Bamberger and Oswald compiled the results of 24
case studies from six gas-drilling U.S. states. They documented health
incidents experienced by humans and animals living near drill sites and
also identified possible exposure routes to fracking chemicals. They
published this data and have discussed its implications in scientific
papers (Bamberger and Oswald 2012; Bamberger and Oswald 2014a).
*The Real Cost of Fracking* describes clearly these findings. However, the
book is organized around the firsthand experiences of the animals and
people behind seven of these case studies. These experiences include the
loss of calves and the imposition of a herd quarantine due to a wastewater
spill, bulls and Newfoundland dogs with ongoing reproductive problems, and
horses on steroids due to respiratory problems. The authors meet children
with elevated arsenic levels, adults experiencing dramatic weight loss, and
whole families suffering from “shale gas syndrome” (their name for the
combination of burning eyes, sore throat, headaches, nosebleeds, vomiting,
diarrhea, and skin rashes often experienced by the people in their case
studies). Some residents cannot enter their homes without becoming
seriously ill and others have lost their animal breeding or farming-based
During their research, Bamberger and Oswald also hear how government
indifference and industry tactics compound people’s health and financial
problems. These tactics include secrecy about fracking chemicals, which
hinders effective medical treatment (McDermott-Levy et al. 2003). Others
include harassment and intimidation of residents who complain.
*Obstacles to Scientific Research and “Proof of Harm”*
While telling these stories, Bamberger and Oswald describe the complexities
of carrying out research on active industrial sites operated by a secretive
industry. Non-disclosure agreements, for example, hide potentially useful
data. Whenever fracking victims are financially compensated for their
losses, they often are forced to sign such agreements, preventing them from
revealing fracking-related illnesses or other losses to the public.
Ideally, as proof of harm, researchers would be able to link specific
chemicals to specific health symptoms. This would require chemical testing
to prove that a chemical was absent before fracking started and present
afterwards. Researchers would then need to establish a probable exposure
route (i.e. drinking water contaminated with the chemical). And finally,
independent health monitoring would confirm that signs of illness were
absent before chemical exposure and present after.
In addition to non-disclosure agreements, *The Real Cost of Fracking*
highlights several further barriers to establishing such links. First there
is no provision for systematic chemical testing of air, soil, or water on
drill sites and their surroundings. Nor is there systematic health
monitoring of any kind. Furthermore, without full disclosure of the
chemicals used at each specific drill site, researchers, veterinarians, and
doctors can’t know for sure which chemicals or health effects to test for.
The systematic large-scale health and environmental testing needed can only
be carried out with the support of government and regulators. To serve the
public interest, it must be carried out by a trustworthy source and the
results made freely available. Perversely, having failed to require any
such tests, government officials and regulators join with industry to claim
there is no “proof of harm” from fracking.
*Fracking Correlated with Ill Health*
Despite these obstacles, Bamberger and Oswald’s results showed local
residents experienced new and serious harm to their health, wellbeing, and
livelihoods after fracking began. They were able to document that “animals
and humans have symptoms that correlate in time with gas and oil drilling
operations.” In many cases they could also identify likely exposure routes
to fracking toxins. Well water is one possible route, and the authors note
research by Osborn et al. (2011) that found “water wells in areas near
shale gas operations have been contaminated by methane that has the
isotopic signature of shale gas.” These results suggest that, in addition
to methane released by fracking, other more toxic chemicals could
Strengthening the correlation between fracking and ill health, Bamberger
and Oswald found health clinics in Pennsylvania and Colorado that reported
patients living near drill sites who also experienced “shale gas syndrome.”
Furthermore, since the publication of their results, other researchers have
reported adverse health correlated with fracking (Bamberger and Oswald
2014b; Macey et al. 2014; McDermott-Levy et al. 2013; Hill 2013; Food and
Water Watch Report 2013). However, it is likely these studies do not
identify all of fracking’s harmful effects. In particular, the animal
reproductive problems documented by Bamberger and Oswald suggest that
people living and working near drill sites also need testing for
reproductive and other long-term health effects.
*Farmland, Food and Fracking*
Bamberger and Oswald excel at conveying the harmful effects of fracking on
local residents. However, synthesis of their data with that of other
researchers leads them to a much wider concern. Their analysis suggests
widespread fracking will have a major negative impact on farming and food
quality in the U.S., and perhaps worldwide.
Fracking operations are often located on or near farms. Thus pasture,
cropland, streams, ponds, and wells are all at risk of contamination by
toxins used or released during fracking. It is known that leaks and spills
can occur during well drilling, high pressure hydraulic fracturing, or
waste transportation. Exposure routes also include leaky well casings and
intentional farmland waste storage or disposal. Animals can drink
contaminated water and graze contaminated pasture. Crops can be grown on
contaminated soil. Furthermore, poor air quality can impact animal health.
Air quality is impaired by the increased road traffic, open wastewater
lagoons, chemicals released during intentional gas flaring, and ongoing
presence of benzene at drill sites.
These food system threats are compounded by the pooling of products in the
current industrial food system and the lack of appropriate testing and
regulation of the food supply. In addition, financial pressures encourage
farmers to let sick animals enter the food system. Because it impacts crops
and livestock through land, air, and water, Bamberger and Oswald emphasize
fracking has implications for both industrial agriculture and small-scale
*A Powerful Warning*
Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald join other important scientist-authors
who felt compelled to speak directly to the public. Their book, like Rachel
Carson’s *Silent Spring*, Sandra Steingraber’s *Living Downstream: An
Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment*, and T.
Colin Campbell’s *The China Study*, warns about an entirely preventable
health and environmental crisis that is being ignored, or concealed, by
those in power. Such books have a special value, due in part to the quality
of their writing and in part to the authority and integrity of the authors
and the depth of their knowledge.
As new research documents the fracking boom’s contribution to global
climate change, it has become clear fracking’s climate impact is much
greater than originally claimed (Caulton et al. 2014; Howarth 2014;
Schneising et al. 2014). Now, with *The Real Cost of Fracking*, Bamberger
and Oswald give voice to those whose lives and health suffer already under
that boom – and offer a forewarning to the rest of us.
Added Dec 6th 2014: See also “Big-Picture Study Of Fracking Operations
Suggests Even Small Chemical Exposures Pose Risks”
ISBN: 978-080708493-9 Beacon Press (2014)
Adams M.B. (2011) “Land application of hydrofracturing fluids damages a
deciduous forest stand in West Virginia.
Journal of Environmental Quality 40.4:1340-1344.
Bamberger M. and R.E. Oswald (2012) “Impacts of gas drilling on human and
New solutions: a journal of environmental and occupational health policy
Bamberger M. and R.E. Oswald (2014a) “Unconventional oil and gas
extraction and animal health.
Environmental Science: Processes and Impacts 16:1860-1865.
Bamberger M. and R.E. Oswald (2014b) “The Shale Gas Revolution from the
Viewpoint of a Former Industry Insider.
New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy
Caulton, D.R., et al. “Toward a better understanding and quantification of
methane emissions from shale gas development
<http://www.pnas.org/content/111/17/6237.full.pdf+html>.” Proceedings of
the National Academy of Sciences 111.17 (2014): 6237-6242.
Colborn T., Kwiatkowski C., Schultz K., and M. Bachran (2011) “Natural gas
operations from a public health perspective.
Human and Ecological Risk Assessment: An International Journal
Food & Water Watch Report: The Social Costs of Fracking
September 24th, 2013. The report documents increases in motor vehicle
accidents and serious public health problems.
Hill E.L. (2013) “Shale Gas Development and Infant Health: Evidence from
Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell
University, Working Paper.
Howarth R.W. (2014) “A bridge to nowhere: methane emissions and the
greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas.
<http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ese3.35/pdf>” Energy Science &
McDermott-Levy R., Kaktins N., and B. Sattler (2013) “Fracking, the
environment, and health.
The American Journal of Nursing 113.6: 45-51.
Macey G.P., Breech R., Chernaik M., Cox C., Larson D., Thomas D., and D.O.
Carpenter (2014) “Air concentrations of volatile compounds near oil and gas
production: a community-based exploratory study.
<http://www.ehjournal.net/content/13/1/82>” Environmental Health 13:82.
Osborn S.G., Vengosh A., Warner N.R., and R.B. Jackson (2011) “Methane
contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and
hydraulic fracturing. <http://www.pnas.org/content/108/20/8172.full.pdf+>”
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108.20: 8172-8176.
Rabinowitz, P.M., Scotch M.L., and L.A. Conti (2010) “Animals as sentinels:
using comparative medicine to move beyond the laboratory.
journal 51.3: 262-267.
Reif, J.S. (2011) “Animal sentinels for environmental and public health.
<http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3072903/>” Public Health
Reports 126(Suppl 1):50-57.
Sang, W., Stoof C.R., Zhang W., Morales V.L., Gao B., Kay R.W., Liu L.,
Zhang Y., and T.S. Steenhuis (2014) “Effect of Hydrofracking fluid on
colloid transport in the unsaturated zone.
<http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es501441e>” Environmental Science &
Schneising O., Burrows J.P., Dickerson R.R., Buchwitz M., Reuter M. and H.
Bovensmann (2014) Remote sensing of fugitive methane emissions from oil and
gas production in North American tight geologic formations.
Future. doi: 10.1002/2014EF000265.
Van der Schalie W.H., Gardner Jr. H.S., Bantle J.A., De Rosa C.T., Finch
R.A., Reif J.S., and R.H. Reuter et al. (1999) “Animals as sentinels of
human health hazards of environmental chemicals.
Environmental health perspectives 107. 4: 309-315.
For all Bamberger and Oswald Fracking Publications go here
Lawrence F. London
lfljvenaura at gmail.com
Ello: https://ello.co/ecoponderosa <https://ello.co/ecoponderosa>
Twitter: @ecoponderosa <https://twitter.com/ecoponderosa>
Cellphone: lfljcell at gmail.com
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