James Boggs, “The American Revolution:
Putting Politics in Command” 1970
The urgent, crying need of the American people is to undergo a fundamental transformation from the individualists and materialists they are today into a new breed of socially and politically conscious and responsible human beings. Instead of being concerned only with their own material advancement and satisfied with the political decisions of the military-industrial-complex as long as these expand production and consumption, the American people must be dragged, pulled, and pushed into situations where they are compelled to make socially responsible decisions—until the energy, skill, and the will to make such decisions have become second nature.
James Boggs, “The American Revolution: Putting Politics in Command” 1970
Thinking for Ourselves
Members of the Michigan State Legislature have learned nothing from the poisoning of Flint. This week the legislature is considering handing over the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to corporate polluters by passing three new bills currently under consideration. Together these bills are an environmental disaster that would put all of us at greater risk.
HB652 would give private industry the power to veto any new state environmental rules by creating a new committee with a majority of members representing big business.
HB653 establishes a governor appointed panel with the power to overturn decisions by the DEQ denying permits on environmental grounds. Given that 99.5% of requests are approved by the MDEQ, it is hard to imagine what real difference this would make, except to further undermine the opportunity for citizen action.
HB654 sets up another governor appointed committee to provide advice on scientific matters as a counter to DEQ judgments. Given the current republican attacks on education and science, the quality of such advice is likely to represent the worst thinking in our country.
Taken together these bills diminish the opportunity for direct citizen influence, strengthen executive authority over environmental matters, and ensure that the highest bar set for our state is that set by the Federal Government which is rapidly lowering national standards and practices.
The motivation for this dangerous legislation seems to be some legislators who think business development is unfairly constrained by environmental concerns.
Senator Tom Casperson is the lead sponsor of the bill and a right wing republican from Escanaba. In a recent radio interview he explained the goal of the legislation saying, “Well, I think [the bills are] necessary …We’ve tried different approaches to, what I would call, put some reasonable standards in place, and we keep running into roadblocks and problems within the department, and so we’re trying to come up with something that levels the playing field.”
These “roadblocks and problems” are the concerns raised by environmentalists and people who actually bear the brunt of dangerous environmental decisions, from polluted air and water to increased cancer and brain damage.
Yet, as Casperson explained in a jumble of metaphors that gives a frightening clue to the non-thinking behind this legislation, “I would argue that some of the critics that are coming from the environmental groups, have no dog in the fight whatsoever. They have no skin in this game at all, as far as financial or anything else. So, they seem to be included in all these processes, they seem to be included in the end game as far as what the standards will be…. Just because an environmental group says it has to be done in a certain way, that’s not necessarily true either.”
This legislation is especially dangerous today. Federal environmental protections are rapidly unraveling. Scott Pruitt, whose main support comes from the fossil fuel industry, has been busy dismantling the EPA. Over this past year Pruitt has scaled back enforcement activities, refused to ban brain damaging pesticides, taken steps to remove protections on drinking water, weakened protections from toxic chemicals and is proposing to eliminate programs designed to protect our children from lead paint.
At a moment when all of us need to protect our earth and create new ways of living that are not only sustainable but regenerative, the Michigan Legislature is abdicating its responsibility to provide for the common good. This lack of leadership at the state and federal levels means that we must find new ways to protect our communities.
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A table of pamphlets greets visitors at the entry. The dining room area is an open meeting space with chairs arranged around the perimeter and her living room is half furnished to make room for potluck dinners for visitors.
Welcome to Birwood House, Sherobbi’s home and non-profit neighborhood community house since 2016. Sherobbi says her work to nurture a caring community is an extension of her mother’s work in the same house as Birwood Block Club secretary in the 1960s. KEEP READING