Optimistic Futurist: Citizens take law into own hands

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 5, 2015

North Carolina citizens have access to new, low-cost weapons that can be used to protect families. Some people who want to use these weapons are organizing themselves into self-defense groups, claiming that the existing government institutions are not doing their job.

Tens of thousands of chemicals in use today have not been tested for their impact on humans. The number of these chemicals and the volumes used daily are growing rapidly. Science has shown that these chemicals are entering our bodies and causing changes to our children’s cells, their food and our climate at a frightening rate.

For example, one study found 287 chemicals in the placenta and umbilical cord of newborns. Doctors report that these chemicals contributed to babies being born too early, and/or with lifelong health issues including depression, ADHD, loss of IQ, and changed sexual body part development.

Risk exists because the laws and regulations designed to protect us and our children have grown obsolete.

The Clean Water Act of 1972 was last updated 28 years ago, and the Clean Air Act of 1967 was updated 25 years ago. The EPA does not possess the power or the budget to cope with this chemical revolution. Over and over one can read a statement from some company like “This river water meets all federal standards” — easy to say because in many cases there are no standards, or those standards that exist were put in place before birth control pills, pesticides, fracking chemicals and other things began to leak into our water and air supply

This is compounded by reductions in taxpayer-supported defense forces. In North Carolina, the state agencies charged with protecting your families air and water have had their budgets politically cut more than 45 percent over the past seven years.

North Carolina politicians shut down 58 of 132 already paid for air quality monitors, and have another 12 on the chopping block in this year’s budget reduction plans.

At the federal level, the EPA budget is now $25 per citizen per year; reduced from $33 just five years go, resulting in weakening environmental protection.

Citizens who suspect a threat to their family, school or community can now organize and collect hard scientific data to back up their cries of alarm. The new weapons range from camera-equipped drones ($1,259 at BestBuy) to wearable monitors for less than $20 that detect poisons in the air or water.

Several inexpensive clip-on sensors to be worn by volunteers are coming on the market that collect data which is then relayed via cell phone and automatically produces maps of dangerous areas — a vast improvement over single, stationary monitors sensing one data point for hundreds of square miles.

Hand-held meters

For around $40 you can get a kit that will allow you to identify such things as spilled oil from leaking oil wells. Some environmental samples can be tested with simple color-changing strips like a pregnancy test, others with simple hand-held meters like a blood sugar test for diabetics.

It is now possible for school children to cheaply measure the air pollution in their classroom and for their Scout troops to measure poisons in their swimming hole.

These new tools are making our society safer.

West Oakland, California, had one of the highest asthma rates in the country. Years of citizen complaints and requests for investigation went nowhere.

Led by Margaret Gordon, groups of neighbors used these inexpensive tools and collected overwhelming evidence that these health problems were caused by air pollution from trucks and ships at the Port of Oakland. The citizens’ findings were so compelling that the Port revamped its loading and unloading practices to reduce pollution, and the city created a truck route away from populated neighborhoods. The air cleaned up significantly.

In Ironton, Louisiana, citizens had been complaining about coal shipping companies dumping pollution into the river, but were ignored. Using inexpensive special kites with cameras attached, they were able to capture video of the dumping, which made the news, and activated the authorities who are preparing enforcement action.

In Boston, professors and students captured stunning images of leaking methane gas.

In China, where local politicians also try to hide pollution data from the citizens, a group of visiting United States college students created low-cost hand made sensors mounted on kites to sense the pollution. The sensors flash red if danger and green if it was safe.

If you wish to test the air and water near you, a good place to start is www.publiclab.org. This not-for-profit group of geeks invents and sells low cost do-it-yourself test kits and training manuals.

Francis Koster lives in Kannapolis.

To see the sources of facts used in this article, request a speech, or learn of other successful money and life saving programs that can be implemented locally to create a better future for our country, go to www.TheOptimisticFuturist.org.