Friday, December 26, 2008

Day 189: Spilling

J. Miles Cary/Knoxville News Sentinel, via Associated Press

This morning I am left wondering if 2009 will be that year that an "environment" section might be added to our national media coverage. It feels like a glaring absence in light of the recent coal ash slide (our nation's largest "spill") currently devastating the Kingston, Tennessee area. The effects of the slide are bound to be incredibly far reaching and I can't help but wonder how many more such altered landscapes are on the precipice of sliding into reality.

An "environment" section in both the local and national media could prove essential in keeping the public informed about the imminent potential of these events, and then as they arrive assist in distributing information about their effects. The agencies currently responsible for managing such sites and distributing essential health related information seem less than reliable as Gilbert Francis Jr., a spokesman for the Tennessee Valley Authority (who manages the recent TN spill site) made clear in the Times this morning. In response to the spill he was quoted as stating, “Most of that material is inert,” “It does have some heavy metals within it, but it’s not toxic or anything.

The Times goes on to explains that this is a blatant lie, as, "a draft report last year by the federal Environmental Protection Agency found that fly ash, a byproduct of the burning of coal to produce electricity, does contain significant amounts of carcinogens and retains the heavy metal present in coal in far higher concentrations. The report found that the concentrations of arsenic to which people might be exposed through drinking water contaminated by fly ash could increase cancer risks several hundredfold."

The current coverage of the Tennessee spill currently resides in the "United States" section of the Times. I wonder at what point we will get beyond just worrying ourselves and ask what are the effects of these actions within a larger sphere- upon the Earth itself? Maybe it is time to create a space in our media that actually draws a relationship between the two?

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