Saturday, August 2, 2014

Toledo OH: Another US city where folks can't drink the water.

By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

Along with the almost daily slaughter of entire families by a depressed and demoralized parent, relative or sibling, we have yet another major US city, Toledo Ohio,  where the residents can’t drink the water as a state of emergency has been declared in Lucas County.

Toledo, with a population of 400,000, is Ohio’s fourth largest city and home to the great 1934 Auto-lite General Strike led my AJ Muste and his unemployed league.  There were three General Strikes that year, San Francisco and Minneapolis were the other two.

Residents have been told this week not to brush their teeth or even boil the water because that could increase the toxicity of it. The toxin, microsystin showed up in regular samples at a water treatment plant.

Residents lined up at stores to get fresh water and authorities were concerned enough to send the police to keep order.  "People were hoarding it. It's ridiculous," one resident told the AP. Before the store ran out of water an hour and a half after opening.

Authorities claim the toxins originate in Lake Erie from algae and that water plants alongside Lake Erie have been concerned about this for some time. The water plants treat the water with chemicals to fight the algae.

But what might appear to be a “organic” cause of toxicity, a natural plant like an algae is not the whole story.  The algae is fed by phosphorous from fertilizer runoff and sewage treatment plants.

Readers must be aware of the “dead Zone” what was an area 150 miles out in to the Gulf of Mexico that has no life due to the runoff from the agricultural heartland via the Mississippi.  I think that this zone has increased since the catastrophic BP spill a few years ago. 

The effects of that spill will not be known for decades, possibly centuries although it is unlikely life (as we know it) on this planet has that long a lifespan unless the present system of social organization and production is ended.  We will have some idea as the offspring of Bluefin Tuna start appearing with three sets of genitals and other abnormalities if they continue to appear at all.

One cannot ignore the fact that the environmental crisis is reaching a tipping point.  Food production, or agricultural production, which is necessary for human survival, is an industrial venture in the hands of private individuals and profit driven. The vast amounts of chemicals poured in to the environment and on to the land and the food we eat has consequences.  Meat production suffers the same fate as capitalism forces producers to get their commodity on the market as quickly as possible so the sale of the commodity (the cow, pig etc.) can take place, the surplus value released from it and the whole process can be repeated, again and again.  All sorts of chemicals are fed to the animals we eat to facilitate the extraction of surplus value.

I shared with readers the Almond crop consumption that is wreaking havoc in California as capital flows in to the production of this crop driven by market forces and profits.  There is much that is complicated about economics including Marxist economics, like any subject. But understanding the general processes at work as explained by Marx, lays bare the actual workings of production in a way that workers can understand it; as it connects to objective reality; it is concrete. 

In an economy where production----in our case here the production of food needed to sustain human life-----is unplanned, in the hands of private owners and set in to motion for personal gain or profit, such crises and imbalances are inevitable as capitalists, the owners of agricultural production included, do not produce food for us to eat, they produce food for them to sell.

The media in the US is very tightly controlled and heavily censored.  Yet we can see that these environmental crisis are hitting closer to home if we take the time to search a bit.  The above example, the water crisis in Virginia recently, the poisoning of drinking water through fracking, the blowing up of the fertilizer plant in West Texas, and of course, the BP disaster.  These are all market-induced calamities and are avoidable.

We can fight against this process that develops more rapidly as the accumulation and concentration of capital intensifies.  But we can see they will not regulate environmental safety.  They will not regulate the market in a way that would eliminate these crises, including the regional wars and horror we see going on in Gaza for example.  The regulators for deep water drilling allowed the energy industry to write their own rules.

So while we fight back, throw obstacles in their way, the only way that we can end this madness and ensure the future generations have a planet to live on at all is to take production, or the labor process that we call work, under collective management and ownership.   A global federation of democratic Socialist states is the only permanent answer to this.  Think for a moment that for a couple of hundred miles out in to the Gulf of Mexico from the mighty Mississippi there is no life.  This is a crime.

We are not done for yet, but make no bones about it, in historical terms, time is short if workers don't take matters in to our own hands and out of Wall Streets.

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