Blessed are the children, for they shall inherit the earth

Mother Earth and Uncle Sam: How Pollution and Hollow Government Hurt Our Kids, studiesthe U.S. government’s failure to protect public health. Seventh Generation summed up the book:

Here’s a toxic tale of woefully under-funded programs, a cold-hearted over-reliance on bean-counting cost-benefit analyses, distorted science and other truth-twisting, special interests run amok, gutted regulatory authorities, and a corporate-controlled commons that trades profits for safety to create a country in which clear and present toxic threats that could be contained or eliminated have instead been allowed to grow.

Author Rena Steinzor examines these and other critical issues through the stories of three toxins that today abound: mercury in our food, perchlorate in our water, and ozone in our air. But these contaminants could be any at all because the stories Steinzor recounts are always the same no matter what toxin we’re talking about: a hollow government and ineffective or hamstrung regulators pay lip service to the idea of protecting the public while behind the scenes powerful well-moneyed forces work to preserve the status quo at all costs, no mater how high these costs climb. In her prologue, Steinzor writes:

“Five ideas are at the heart of this book. First, we are neglecting our children’s health to an extent that we would find unthinkable as individual parents. Second, the primary reason for this unacceptable outcome is the erosion of government’s role in protecting public health and the environment. Third, this outcome is not where most Americans believe we should be heading. Fourth, as matters stand now, our children and their children will not inherit the legacy that we owe them: a healthy, sustainable planet. Fifth, we can arrest these developments but only if a critical mass of Americans becomes convinced that that the problems are urgent and the solutions near at hand.”

To that end, Steinzor presents a compelling case that our current governmental dysfunction and paralysis is harming our present and damning our future. Filled with examples of greed and negligence that make even hardened eco-warriors like us shudder, it’s a book that might have you pulling the proverbial blanket up over your head once and for all if not for the hopeful final section, which outlines the steps we need to take to take back the commonwealth and restore our government and its agencies to the effective guardians of public health they once were and can be again.

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