Rod Dreher

The levels of toxic gases in the coastal air are so high that at least one scientist is telling residents they need to prepare to leave. Watch this WWL-TV report:If you haven’t thought about the spill in a couple of weeks, take a look at the compendium of reports and commentaries Favog has assembled. I don’t know about you, but I have a strong bias against believing the government’s assurances about the safety of the air along the coast, based on their behavior so far, and on the government’s past performance at Ground Zero, assuring people that the environment was just fine, when it wasn’t. Favog points out that the people he points to may not be entirely trustworthy (not necessarily because they’re intentionally deceptive). Still, I think there is no reason to trust the government’s assurances. But what realistic choice do coastal residents have? Where are they going to go? And not just coastal residents: that Corexit is bound to get into the environment, and spread far and wide. Favog collects several YouTube videos from coastal people purportedly documenting toxic rain on their vegetation. People who face the kind of potential disaster that coastal residents face can find themselves in strange headspaces. About 18 years ago, I co-produced for German television an investigative segment on toxicity in the south Louisiana environment. We interviewed Kay Gaudet, a woman in St. Gabriel, La., a town just south of Baton Rouge, who had been a pharmacist there. In the 1980s, she began noticing an abnormal number of miscarriages among the women of her town. So Gaudet started asking questions about what might be in the air in St. Gabriel. Now, St. Gabriel is a town entirely dependent on the chemical industry. Gaudet’s questions angered local folks — even though they were the ones at risk if Gaudet’s suspicions were correct. It got so bad for her, she told us, that her priest asked her and her husband to leave their parish, because they were too controversial.A similar story: in the 1990s, a buddy of mine in south Louisiana worked at a paper mill. His workplace had been cited by environmental regulators for the presence of toxic gases. He told me the state had ordered his mill to install detectors to pick up these odorless gases when they got into the atmosphere at work. The device in the part of the plant where my friend worked kept going off, he told me, so his manager literally stuffed a sock in it. My buddy kept coming home with nosebleeds at the end of the day — but he knew it was hopeless to complain, because the union was weak, and most of the millworkers were so desperate for work they didn’t want to rock the boat. My friend eventually found another job and left the mill for the sake of his health. When you have nowhere else realistically to go, either for your residence or your work, you may well convince yourself that there’s nothing bad in the air, that people are just being alarmist. But it’s not necessarily true.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus