On The Comeback Trail – Asbestos

Earthrise by Bill Anders, Dec. 24, 1968

The Environmental Protection Agency is not what it once was as the Trump administration finishes year two.

In addition to public renunciation of the words “climate change,” combined with promotion of fossil fuels which contribute to global warming, Trump’s minions are eating away at the foundation of protections the agency created since President Nixon formed it on Dec. 2, 1970. Like a swarm of termites, they follow an agenda crafted by conservative think tanks to deregulate what is perceived as infringement on the liberties of corporations to practice unfettered capitalism.

A national environmental movement influenced Nixon’s decision to create the EPA, and only a similar movement will stop the current administration from dismantling it. Thus far, nothing has proved egregious enough to precipitate a movement like the one that rose in the 1960s. Will the last straw be reintroducing asbestos into our consumer society?

You’ve got to be kidding me. Asbestos?

Asbestos may be coming back to your neighborhood, according to Aileen Kwun who posted an article about it on Fast Company July 31.

“Asbestos, a dangerous carcinogen outlawed in more than 55 countries, could make a comeback in the United States, under Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency,” Kwun wrote. “The EPA has even made it easier for companies to introduce new uses of asbestos-containing products in America — many of which could end up in common products in your home, as well as the materials used to build it.”

“Trump has been outward in his views on the asbestos industry,” she said. “His 1997 book Art of the Comeback explicitly stated that asbestos bans are a conspiracy ‘led by the mob, because it was often mob-related companies that would do the asbestos removal.’”

On June 1, the EPA enacted a Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) allowing the manufacture of new asbestos-containing products to be petitioned and approved by the federal government on a case-by-case basis, according to Kwun.

Ask a public health official and they will say EPA should continue to regulate asbestos as they have.

Asbestos? Making a comeback? Good grief! Read Kwun’s entire article here.

George Carlin famously said, “Environmentalists don’t give a shit about the planet, they don’t care about the planet… You know what they’re interested in? A clean place to live. Their own habitat. They’re worried that some day in the future they might be personally inconvenienced.”

There is little about the modern environmental movement and its reaction to changes at the EPA to prove Carlin wrong. In the meanwhile, termites continue to consume the regulatory foundation for a safe environment built up over decades.

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5 Responses to On The Comeback Trail – Asbestos

  1. Anne Duncan says:

    I like and appreciate most of this post, but not the last two paragraphs. I wrote a long post explaining why, but then I erased it and instead will hope that they were just a fluke.


    • Paul Deaton says:

      If asbestos deregulation doesn’t bring people together, I don’t know what will. Environmental advocates are very fragmented today.


      • Anne Duncan says:

        I agree that environmental advocates are fragmented today. I think that’s partly because we are trying to deal with an avalanche of issues. But I don’t like Carlin’s comment, since it seems to blame all environmental advocates for attitudes that certainly aren’t true for a lot of us. If we didn’t care about the planet, there are much easier and more lucrative things we could do with our time. I generally enjoy Carlin’s humor, but that comment was not one of his better efforts.

        And while I certainly wouldn’t claim that this country’s reaction to Trump’s anti-environmental actions has been even remotely adequate, because it hasn’t, I think the responsibility for that rests on all Americans who can vote and take action, not just environmental advocates. And we can’t all do everything. I’m not going to criticize people for not working on the asbestos issue if they are working on climate change or pollinator protection instead. Or are providing useful environmental information via blogging.

        And of course many people are doing nothing. And some (the Farm Bureau comes to mind) are actively supporting what Trump is doing. I blame them more than I blame people who are at least trying.


      • Paul Deaton says:

        Am reading Paul Kingsnorth Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist. He has a pessimistic view of the present day environmental movements. His answer was to withdraw to the Lake District of England and install a compostable toilet in his home. Under his spell I chose to use the Carlin bit. It was a lot easier to organize after Earthrise was taken, and that’s why the photo.


  2. Anne Duncan says:

    I appreciate your talking about this book, which I hadn’t heard of before. I skimmed a few reviews of the book and read a little about Kingsnorth, and there seems to be widespread agreement that he is a really marvelous writer. There is less consensus about the implications of what he writes, or as you put it better, “his answer,” which isn’t surprising. Thanks for making me aware of his work.

    And I can certainly understand the appeal of the Lake District and compostable toilets. I’ll be interested in seeing if Kingsnorth is still in the same frame of mind twenty years from now, if I’m still around to notice. Writing can turn into activism and back again, Bill McKibben being one example.


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