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Michael Moore: 10 People in Flint Have Now Been Killed by These Premeditated Actions of the Governor of Michigan
Dear President Obama,
I am writing this to you from the place where I was born—Flint, Michigan. Please consider this personal appeal from me and the 102,000 citizens of the city of Flint who have been poisoned—not by a mistake, not by a natural disaster, but by a governor and his administration who, to "cut costs," took over the city of Flint from its duly elected leaders, unhooked the city from its fresh water supply of Lake Huron and then made the people drink the toxic water from the Flint River. This was nearly two years ago.
This week it was revealed that at least 10 people in Flint have now been killed by these premeditated actions of the Governor of Michigan. This governor, Rick Snyder, nullified the democratic election of this mostly African-American city—where 41 percent of the people live below the "official" poverty line—and replaced the elected Mayor and city council with a crony who was instructed to take all his orders from the governor's office.
One of those orders from the state of Michigan was this: "It costs too much money to supply Flint with clean drinking water from Lake Huron (the 3rd largest body of fresh water in the world). We can save a lot of money doing this differently. So unhook the city from that source and let them drink the water known as 'General Motors' Sewer'—the Flint River."
And, lo and behold, the Governor was right. It was a lot cheaper! Fifteen million dollars cheaper! And for saving all that money, it is now estimated that to repair the damaged water system in Flint, it will cost at least $1.5 billion. Someone had suggested to the governor, before he did this, that the river contained many toxins. He ignored that. One of his own people said maybe they should add a safe-to-drink "corrosive protector" to the water so that the toxins in said water wouldn't leach the lead off the aging water pipe infrastructure and into the drinking water. "How much will that cost?" asked the governor's office.
"Just $100 a day for only 3 months," the governor was told. Oh, $100 a day?! That's too much!, came the reply from the governor. Don't worry about the lead. "Lead is a seasonal thing," he would later explain to the public. "Heck, there's lead in everything!" Just let them drink the river water.
This is a city full of poor black people, a city where half the population (including myself) found a way to escape the misery and the madness (the crime rate is so bad, we've lead the country in murders for most years—and just to get an idea of what that means, if New York City had the same murder rate as Flint last year, more than 4,000 New Yorkers would have been killed, instead of the 340 who actually were).
"Mr. President, we need your help—today. 100,000 people have no water to drink, to cook with or to bathe in."
My city has been pummeled by General Motors, Wall Street and the state and federal governments. It's no surprise that the Republicans who control our State Capitol in Michigan didn't have to worry about any push-back from the residents of Flint because, to them, that's just a bunch of eviscerated black people who have absolutely no power, "don't vote for us any way" and have no means to fight back.
And now, after every single child in Flint has been poisoned with lead-filled water that the state knew a year ago was in that water, we learn that the governor's office sought to cover it up, hiding it not just from the defenseless African Americans they secretly fear and despise, but also hiding it from you and the federal government! (Link)
And, as if things couldn't get any worse, the news of 87 people with Legionnaires Disease happened this week. Ten Flint residents have been killed by this disease which is caused by tainted water. Not by gun violence, not in Afghanistan, but by an act of racism and violence perpetrated by the—I'm sorry to say—white, Republican governor of Michigan who knew months ago the water was toxic.
All fingers from the doctors and scientists point to the filthy, toxic Flint River as the cause of this Legionnaires Disease outbreak. Ten human souls deceased. In an average year, Flint already had an astounding eight cases (and rarely a death) of people contracting Legionnaires Disease. Since the citizens of Flint were forced to use the water from the Flint River, 87 cases of Legionnaires Disease have happened! And 10 deaths! And the number is expected to rise.
President Obama—the people of Flint are crying out to you for help. Our Congressman, Dan Kildee, has called the federal government for assistance. But he's been told that it's a "state issue" and that "the state of Michigan has to be the one asking the feds for the help."
No! The state is the one who caused this! That's like asking the fox if he could repair the chicken coop. No, Mr. President, we need your help—today. One hundred thousand people have no water to drink, to cook with or to bathe in.
This week, you are coming to Michigan to attend the Detroit Auto Show. We implore you to come to Flint, less than an hour's drive north of Detroit. Do not ignore this tragedy taking place every day. This may be Gov. Snyder's Katrina, but it will become your Bush-Flying-Over-New Orleans Moment if you come to Michigan and then just fly away. I know you don't want that image of flying over us as you "fake-sad" look down on Flint just as Bush did in that never-to-be-forgotten photo-op over New Orleans. I know you are going to come to the rescue here in Flint. I can't imagine any other scenario.
1. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here at once to truly assess all of the disease and damage that has been forced upon the people of Flint.
2. Federal Emergency Management Agency has to supply large water containers in every home in Flint—and they must be filled by water trucks until the new infrastructure is resolved.
3. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must take over matters from the state (can the governor be removed and replaced like he did to the mayor of Flint?). Immediately.
4. You must send in the Army Corps of Engineers to build that new water infrastructure. Otherwise, you might as well just evacuate all the people from Flint and move them to a white city that has clean drinking water—and where this would never happen.
President Obama, I'm counting on you to give us a response. Can we expect to see you, in Flint, in the next few days?
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By Zak Smith
It is pretty amazing that in this moment when the COVID-19 outbreak has much of the country holed up in their homes binging Netflix, the most watched show in America over the last few weeks has been focused on wildlife trade — which scientists believe is the source of the COVID-19 pandemic. Make no mistake: Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is about wildlife trade and other aspects of wildlife exploitation, just as surely as the appearance of Ebola, SARS, MERS, avian flu and probably COVID-19 in humans is a result of wildlife exploitation. As a conservationist, this is one of the things I've been thinking about while watching Tiger King. Here are five more:
1. We are in a biodiversity crisis.
A million plant and animal species are threatened with extinction, many within decades, including tigers. The leading drivers of species decline and the impending collapse of ecosystems are ocean and land use changes (like converting wildlands into other uses, usually agricultural) and the direct exploitation of species (like taking animals out of the wild for eating, "medicinal" purposes, or status motives). It is for these exact reasons that there are more tigers in cages in the United States than there are in the wild. Developers continue to destroy tiger habitat and, in the not-so-distant past, hunters shot and killed tigers for sport or for trade in tiger products (and some still do illegally).
2. We must fundamentally change our relationship to nature.
Transformative change is necessary to limit species extinctions and secure human well-being (functioning ecosystems provide the clean air, clean water, carbon sequestration, flood control, healthy soils, pollination of plants and healthy coastal waters humans need to survive). Transformative change in this context means "a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic, and social factors, including paradigms, goals, and values." We aren't going to halt the loss of species and strengthen ecosystems if we continue to treat wild plants and animals as expendable and renewable resources that we can use however we want. The tigers and other animals in Tiger King are exploited for profit and personal interests. Regardless of how they may be respected, coveted, or cared for, they are still treated as exploitable objects, which reinforces other destructive attitudes toward nature. A tiger cub is something to be held and photographed, a wetland is something to be filled and built upon, a rhino is something to be killed so we can use its horn for fake medicine. It's a view of nature as being in service to human wants, an attitude that is destroying our planet and one that must change.
3. Most wildlife trade should be banned and we should protect more wild places.
As noted above, ocean and land use changes and direct exploitation of species are causing an extinction crisis and threaten the ecosystems we depend on for human well-being. In line with our exploitative mindset, we've been stuck for centuries with economic and social patterns that allow unfettered use of wild places and wildlife until there's a problem. We need to flip that model on its head and only use wild places and wildlife if we can affirmatively demonstrate that such use won't contribute to the biodiversity and climate crisis. Tigers and the other animals appearing in Tiger King wouldn't be endangered today and wouldn't require "sanctuaries" if we hadn't destroyed their habitat and taken them from the wild for food, pets, "medicine" and trophies.
To set things right, we should ban most wildlife trade and protect more of the natural world. I say "most" wildlife trade to account for the exception of well-managed fisheries. NRDC has long sought to limit irresponsible wildlife trade (fighting for imperiled species internationally, supporting state efforts to limit trade, providing recommendations to China on revisions to its wildlife law), and now we must go further by banning most trade. In addition, we should support efforts to set aside vast swaths of ocean, land and terrestrial water to rebalance the functioning of our natural world. That's why NRDC and others support an initial call of protecting 30 percent of the world's oceans, lands and water areas by 2030. In China, we're protecting areas in a way that helps tigers by supporting the government's development of a National Park system, with targeted efforts on one of its pilot parks, the Northeast Tiger and Leopard National Park, which provides an important habitat for China's struggling populations of Amur tigers and leopards.
4. Not all sanctuaries are sanctuaries.
A lot of so-called sanctuaries are dumpster fires; they serve no purpose other than exploitation of animals for profit, and the animals suffer needlessly. It doesn't look like the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park — the park formerly owned by Joe Exotic — is a sanctuary, though it styles itself as being one, so the public may be confused. According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, legitimate sanctuaries "do not breed, allow public contact with, sell, or otherwise exploit the animals that they take in." Legitimate sanctuaries can play an important role in saving imperiled species, promoting animal welfare, and educating the public. But those that do not meet strict standards are part of the problem, not the solution. The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) provides accreditation for sanctuaries that abide by a set of policies, including the maintenance of a nonprofit/noncommercial status. Big Cat Rescue, which is featured in the Tiger King series, "has held GFAS Accreditation status since 2009."
5. Changing our relationship to nature must include a just transition.
Throughout the world and in the United States, millions of people use nature in destructive ways for their livelihoods. I don't say this with judgement; often, people are just doing what we've always done — business as usual — which is unfortunately destroying the planet. Workers in the fossil fuel industry, fishermen in unsustainable fisheries, clearcutters in the tropics and boreal forests, and even people working at fake sanctuaries depend on the current system of exploiting nature to provide for themselves and their families. Unfortunately, it's at the expense of other people who depend on healthy, thriving ecosystems for their livelihoods and at the expense of human well-being overall. If we want to succeed in charting a new path for our planet, we must commit to making people and communities whole. The rampant exploitation appearing on the screen in Tiger King isn't just of wildlife — it is also of many desperate people brutalized by a political and economic system providing few options. We're not going to successfully realign our relationship with nature if we don't provide the necessary support for people and communities to transition to more sustainable, ethical means of providing for themselves and their families.
So, watch Tiger King and see if for you, like me, it informs the horror of the current moment, then maybe think about building a different world when we come out of this — a vibrant, natural world filled with wildlife and wonder, where we orient ourselves around preserving nature, not exploiting it, and embark on a new human journey.
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