Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

“It slides off me and sticks on you!”

(This blog applies to all living beings currently on Earth.)

Awareness sometimes hurts. Most of us hate to think negative thoughts about things that can end badly—unless we’re directly threatened. And direct threats don’t happen that often…at least not if you’re “privileged”…do they? We enjoy receiving regular paychecks. We don’t want anything to rain on our parade. Once you’re an adult, you should be able to do whatever you want—or whatever you’re influenced to believe you want. Let’s talk about big money corporations and how badly they want you to enjoy better living.

Think back to elementary school when your parents and teachers taught you to listen and obey. “Why?” was often considered to be an insolent question. No one carried the answer to its logical conclusion that a silent, obedient citizenry is easier to manipulate. Regular people didn’t need to understand science, propaganda, statistics, or critical thinking. We were assured our parents, teachers, police officers, religious leaders, and the corporations that made our favorite products were all trustworthy. We paid government watchdog agencies to protect us from rogue manufacturers who might do us harm.

When real-life corporate attorney Robert Bilott discovered DuPont had known for years the new chemical compounds they were manufacturing to create raincoats, boots, toys, and much more—such as nonstick cookware—damaged people (including their own employees), animals, the water, and the air, he took the case of a farmer who could find no one to champion his cause. The farmer’s cattle were displaying bizarre tumors, bloated organs, birth defects, and madness—problems unknown before DuPont installed what they called a trash dump on the land beside his and dumped their sludge upriver. What the farmer didn’t yet know was he and his wife were already developing cancer, while the local children sported black teeth from excessive fluoride in the water—fluoride that had been artificially bonded with a string of carbon atoms to invent C8 (PFOA), a material that not only repelled water on military tanks but could also make pans nonstick. The compound was not regulated by the EPA.

Robert Bilott struggled for twenty years, suffering a series of pay cuts from his firm, to establish a legal case that would finally protect the farmer (who died meanwhile) and others like him. He had a good idea of how steeply uphill his battle would be because he had been one of the corporate lawyers who fought to shield corporations from lawsuits by citizens who claimed they had been injured. The people who believed his legal actions were endangering their jobs harassed witnesses and their families with hateful screams, ugly signs, and even fire, although they themselves were unknowingly suffering the consequences of the dangerous compound. The billion dollar nonstick cookware treated with TEFLON caused birth defects and sometimes death by an array of physical problems. Victims didn’t have to live next door to toxic waste. They had only to breathe particulate contaminated air, drink contaminated water, or use the handy cookware or stain-resistant fabrics—and people all over the world did. Even after the blood of 69,000 West Virginians proved everyone there carried the C8 compound and suffered damages (the analysis took seven years), DuPont reneged on its agreement to medically monitor the victims. Robert Bilott was forced to argue each case or class action suit in court (Dupont settled for $671 million—a pittance beside their profits). In the meantime, all living beings on the planet carry bits of the compound, which collects in your system and never degrades.

In the film DARK WATERS starring Mark Ruffalo as Bilott, he tells his wife, “The system is rigged. They want us to think it’ll protect us, but that’s a lie. We protect us. We do. Nobody else.” As we wade through the science, lies, and conspiracy theories about COVID-19, as well as the many lines of NEW nonstick products on shelves, we need to remember that corporations and, often, governments work to protect profits, not customers. The cigarette companies—among many others—affirmed it. Corporations disregard the future of the environment and the future of human beings. Death is an acceptable cost for large dividends. If we the non-billionaires follow the profits, we find out who’s benefitting from a “better living,” and it’s rarely us. As Bilott’s speech contends, we the people and our spokes people in the media must become informed, ask difficult questions, and protect ourselves. The price of ignorance can be death.

(The film DARK WATERS is based on a New York Times article, “The Lawyer Who Became Dupont’s Worst Nightmare” by Nathan Rich and the 2007 book STAIN-RESISTANT, NONSTICK, WATERPROOF AND LETHAL: THE HIDDEN DANGERS OF C8 by Callie Lyons. Screenplay by Mario Correa and Matthew Michael /Carnahan)

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 12: (L-R) Robert Bilott and Mark Ruffalo attend the “Dark Waters” New York Premiere at Walter Reade Theater on November 12, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/WireImage)

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