Monday, July 18, 2011

Dear Godfrey Logan,

The following poems are excerpts from my long poem, The De-Greening of America, an environmental history poem; each excerpt is separated by a quadruple space. Thank you for your consideration.

Michael Ceraolo

Love Canal.

trumpeted the advertising slogan of a chemical company
(not the one responsible here)
A dubious statement,
but better profits through chemistry is undeniable

In the early 1900s
an American dreamer named William Love
had the idea for a an eleven-kilometer canal
that would connect two branches of the Niagara River,
around which he would build a utopian community
Economics derailed utopianism,
as it sometimes does,
one kilometer of the proposed canal had been dug,
in 1920 the city of Niagara Falls purchased the pit
for use as a dump,
it was used as such for twentysome years
In 1942 the pit,
known locally and colloquially as Love Canal,
was sold to the Hooker Chemical and Plastics company,
and for the next eleven years the company
dumped 22,000 tons of chemical waste into the pit
Knowing full well the hazards of its actions,
in 1953 the company sold the site
to Niagara Falls for one dollar,
accompanied by pages of disclaimers
legally deflecting blame
(blinded by boosterism and bargainism,
no red flags were raised in the eyes
of those protecting the public interest)
And a school and homes were built around the pit

For the next twenty-plus years
the buried chemical stew continued cooking,
even though it was covered and allegedly safe
People swam in the pond on top of the pit
In 1976 heavy rains and snows
caused some the land to subside,
the long-buried horrors to the surface
oily residues,
noxious and toxic odors,
chemical corrosion,
groundwater contamination and more
invaded the homes surrounding the pit
Four hundred and eighteen different chemicals,
including many known carcinogens,
had already done,
and continued to do,
their damage,
even after the complete evacuation of the area
in August 1978-----

the militarization of the earth was massive
and came in many guises
and in many degrees of lethality
and in many degrees of environmental damage,
with early development of landfills
and extending to 14,401 'hotspots'
at 1,579 facilities
both here
and around the world
(that the Defense Department admits to)
Two instances:

March 8, 1962,
continuing over a four-year period,
163,000,000 gallons of toxic waste,
left over from a chemical weapons program
was injected into a 12,000-foot-deep well
dug especially for that purpose
this caused more than 1,500
earth tremors and quakes and events
in the Denver, Colorado area,
an area that had not seen any such events
for more than eighty years prior
to the onset of the injections
when the military contemplated
withdrawing the waste from the well,
expert opinion stated that
the geological strata of the are
would be destabilized if this took place,
leading the unimaginable catastrophe,
the braintrust decided not to compound
its original mistake by making
a potentially greater mistake,
the waste remained in place to decay
for as long as that would take,
the site would stay unremediated till that happened

And the acme of anti-planning,
of anti-future,
of anti-life even,
the attempt to put the nuclear genie back in the lamp
after the initial wish had been granted,
by means
of burying a half-ton of plutonium
in the vicinity of Hanford, Washington,
a poison
that had a half-life of 24,000 years,
a poison
that would take ten times that time
to be rendered completely harmless,
a poison
that affected the water one drunk
and the food that all animals (including man) ate,
a poison
that will continue to do so
for twenty thousand generations in the future
And this is just one of a number of such sites
doing this damage

Water, Water Everywhere.

Plenty of those who proclaim themselves progressives
purchased bottled water from numerous companies
who took it from the watershed it originated in
and shipped it elsewhere,
for the profit
of the few who commanded the power,
to the detriment of the many who lived by the water;
at the same time,
safe drinking water
was declared to be a human right
(as it always has been,
recognized or not),
whether the human right would supersede
the corporate right
(and might)
remained in doubt . . .

The law continued to be an ass,
with the doctrine of Damnum obsque injuria,
a fancy Latin adage that admits
We're responsible for the problem,
but so what?
No damages are assessed against us---

Once There Were Wetlands.

as of the writing of this poem,
there still are,
half of the original wetlands,
an area the size of Texas,
have already been drained away,
have been derided as swaps and deemed health hazards,
and more are lost every day at a great rate
And thus have been lost
thousands of nature's great engineering projects,
ones that provided free flood control,
ones that epitomized effective erosion control,
ones that sponged up pollutants flowing through them
and kept surface water potable,
all of which have required the expenditure
of hundreds of billions of dollars
in extensive man-made engineering projects
that have attempted,
with wildly-varying
degrees of success,
to restore some of what was lost----

"If it concerns water
it is the function of the Corps"
that is,
the Army Corps of Engineers,
and so
the militarization of water began early
in the nation's history
And so
building breakwaters,
flooding some land so that other land wouldn't flood,
in total
over 26,000 miles of waterways conquered
in the war against nature;
the Corps was even authorized
by Section 13 of The Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899
to grant permits to pollute the nation's navigable waters!
And at more than just the environmental cost:
"In no single instance in the last several years
have they given us true figure
on estimated costs"
and well before
and well after that statement as well

the non-Engineer military did its share too:
contaminating wells with one of the acids
from the breakdown of Sarin nerve gas
(maybe in your backyard?) -----

-Michael Ceraolo