The holidays are upon us, and we’re preparing to share festive meals with friends and family. But while we are expecting our meals to be safe and nourishing, the reality is that many of the foods we buy at the grocery store are coated with pesticide residue that can harm our bodies, contaminate our drinking water and poison the workers who grow our food. Chlorpyrifos is one of these dangerous chemicals.
May 1 brought us the long-awaited tank car rule—the Department of Transportation’s response to the spate of horrific explosions of trains carrying crude oil. Less than a week later, another train derailed, spilled oil and exploded in North Dakota, the fifth such disaster this year.
Farmworker Awareness Week has united hundreds of farmworkers and worker-rights advocates seeking stronger protections for the people who grow and harvest the food we eat every day. As the week draws to a close, however, the EPA has once again bureaucratically shuffled its papers and announced that it will do next to nothing to further protect farmworkers and their families from chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxic pesticide that is one of the top culprits in pesticide poisonings every year.
Forty-seven people, including a four-year-old child, died in July 2013 when a train carrying crude oil derailed in Lac Mégantic, Quebec. Sixty-three tank cars derailed and of these, 59 punctured or ripped open and spilled oil, which ignited, exploded and destroyed the downtown. This catastrophe awoke the public to a 4,000 percent increase in the amount of crude oil shipped by rail and the incredible dangers posed by these crude oil trains to communities.
This week marks the official end to the Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of genitalia-altering pesticide residues on snap beans. Numerous published studies by an EPA scientist found that rats fed vinclozolin in utero had feminized genitalia with malformations like vaginal pouches, undescended testicles, and malformed penises. Yet the EPA ban did not happen on its own.
Ten years ago, my family saw firsthand the power of the Endangered Species Act in action. We were backpacking in the Grand Canyon and a California condor soared overhead. The sheer size of his wingspan was awe-inspiring. As we rounded the next bend, there sat the condor at the side of the trail, a marvel to behold.
This is my first day back in the office after a week rafting and hiking in the Grand Canyon, a week spent marveling at the canyon’s majesty and trying to grasp its lessons of the earth’s history. The canyon wren serenaded us each day, and cicadas and fluttering bats each night. We floated through layers of time, eventually reaching Pre-Cambrian schist and granite, the bowels of the earth.