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Who Do We Believe?

Here's an interesting tidbit from a recent Associated Press article:

Livestock groups that lost a recent Idaho Supreme Court decision asked lawmakers Thursday to come to their defense by scaling back local authority over large dairies with thousands of cows and tons of manure.

Idaho Dairyman's Association lobbyist Ken McClure told the Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee that the state should limit counties to matters involving the location of dairies and forbid them from passing stricter air and water quality standards than those already on Idaho's books.

Let's see, Idaho's Supreme Court ruled that local counties should have a say over who is polluting their air and water, and the livestock industry doesn't like that, and is now trying to get the federal government to stop county governments from passing "stricter air and water quality standards."

I can't say I'm surprised by this, exactly; it is, after all, the shortest distance between two points for the livestock industry. I am continually surprised, however, by the idea that a group of people, (insert industry here), thinks it is reasonable to run roughshod over the rest of us, AND that the government should allow it, or even assist them with it.

Here's another one, this time from the New Hampshire Union Leader:

Environmentalists are pushing lawmakers to form a committee to study the effects of pesticides on children, but lawn care businesses object to the study, saying it would lead to a ban on chemicals important to their work.

Haha! Isn't that the point? If you're harming children, you should be stopped, or at least slowed down somehow? Oh wait, I forgot, that's bad for business.

When did business profits come to depend entirely upon being able to actually harm someone? I know some would say that that's the entire basis of capitalism, and after reading articles like these, I can't help but feel that there's some truth to that. But I also know that there really are ethical businesses out there that strive to provide quality goods and services to real people, and they make real money doing it. This isn't just pretend, it actually works. Many consumers are willing to pay to know that they (and others) aren't being screwed somehow.

I'm willing to admit that I'm a shameless optimist, even in the face of such blatant corruption. Even with all the bad news out there, the OCA network and the growing organic, green, local, fair trade, awakening movement are constant reminders that just because THEY say "This is the way things are," doesn't mean we have to listen.

We need to listen to ourselves. We know that our communities and our kids are being poisoned, and we are the ones that should be able to do something about it. If we all could convince our municipal and county governments to take action to protect us from these corrupt and polluting industries, the industries in question would have no choice but to sit up and take notice. And I believe that in the real world, that's what's actually happening.

In one sense, the news stories I have quoted above are depressing and scary. Industry is blatantly trying to run amok with government approval, and we've all seen it happen before, so it's easy to believe it will happen again. But on the other hand, in New Hampshire a group of citizens are standing up and demanding a study to make sure that children aren't being poisoned. And their local government is listening to them. And the same thing in Idaho: a county government in Idaho was so fed up with the industrial livestock industry's pollution that they passed regulations against it, industry fought back, and it went all the way to the state Supreme Court, which ruled that the County had the right to pass those regulations! Way to go, little county government, and way to go, Idaho!

Honor Schauland lives in Finland, Minnesota, and works for the Organic Consumers Association, posting articles on the OCA's website,, which means she reads a lot of bad news every day. She also does community organizing around food issues and citizen participation in local politics, where the real action is in people's backyards.