Citizens Taking The Law Into Their Own Hands For Public Good
by Francis P. Koster, Ed.D.
North Carolina citizens have access to new low cost weapons that can be used to protect families. Some people who want to use these weapons are organizing themselves into self-defense groups, claiming that the existing government institutions are not doing their job.
Tens of thousands of chemicals in use today that have not been tested for their impact on humans. The number of these chemicals and the volumes used daily are growing rapidly.  Science has shown that these chemicals are entering our bodies and causing changes to our children’s cells, their food, and our climate at a frightening rate. For example, one study found 287 chemicals in the placenta and umbilical cord of newborns. Doctors report that these chemicals contributed to babies being born too early, and/or with lifelong health issues including depression, ADHD, loss of I Q, and messing with how sexual body parts develop.
Risk exists because the laws and regulations designed to protect us and our children have grown obsolete. The Clean Water Act of 1972 was last updated 28 years ago, and the Clean Air act of 1967 25 years ago. The EPA does not possess the power or the budgets to cope with this chemical revolution. Over and over one can read a statement from some company like “This river water meets all federal standards” - easy to say because in many cases there are no standards, or those standards that exist were put in place before birth control pills, pesticides, fracking chemicals and other things began to threaten our water and air supply.
This is compounded by reductions in taxpayer supported defense forces. In North Carolina the budget of the state agencies charged with protecting your families air and water have had their budgets politically cut more than 45% over the past 7 years. North Carolina politicians shut down 58 of 132 already paid for air quality monitors, and have another 12 on the chopping block in this years budget reduction plans.,
At the federal level, the EPA budget is now $25 per citizen per year; reduced from $33 just 5 years go, resulting in weakening environmental protection.
Citizens who suspect a threat to their family, school, or community can now organize and collect hard scientific data to back up their cries of alarm. The new weapons range from camera equipped drones ($1,259 at BestBuy) to wearable monitors for less than $20 that detect poisons in the air or water. Several inexpensive clip-on sensors to be worn by volunteers are coming on the market that collect data which is then relayed data via cell phone and automatically produce maps of dangerous areas - a vast improvement over single stationary monitors sensing one data point for hundreds of square miles.
For around $40.00 you can get a kit that will allow you to identify such things as spilled oil from leaking oil wells. Some environmental samples can be tested with simple color changing strips like a pregnancy test, others with simple hand held meters like a blood sugar test for diabetics. It is now possible for a school child to cheaply measure the air pollution in their classroom, or their scout troop to measure poisons in their swimming hole.
These new tools are making our society safer.
West Oakland California had one of the highest asthma rates in the country. Years of citizen complaints and requests for investigation went nowhere.
Lead by Ms. Margaret Gordon, groups of neighbors used these inexpensive tools and collected overwhelming evidence that these health problems were caused by air pollution from trucks and ships at the Port of Oakland. The citizens’ findings were so compelling that the Port revamped its loading and unloading practices to reduce pollution, and the city created a truck route away from populated neighborhoods. The air cleaned up significantly.
In Ironton, Louisiana, citizens had been complaining about coal shipping companies dumping pollution into the river, but were ignored. Using inexpensive special kites with cameras attached they were able to capture video of the dumping, which made the news, and activated the authorities who are preparing enforcement action.
In Boston, professors and students captured stunning images of leaking methane gas.
In China, were local politicians also try to hide pollution data from the citizens, a group of visiting United States college students created low cost hand made sensors mounted on kites to sense the air pollution. The sensors flash red if danger and green if it was safe.
If you wish to test the air and water near you, a good place to start is www.publiclab.org. This not-for-profit group of geeks invent and sell low cost do-it-yourself test kits, and training manuals.
Charlotte Observer, July 4, 2015, p 14A
11http://publiclab.org - United Bulk Coal Termial
A cell phone connected low cost testing device used by students in New Orleans to reveal impact of the BP oil spill (http://publiclab.org/wiki/spectrometer)
Air pollution detecting kite (http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/04/tech/innovation/kite-detects-pollution-beijing/
Map of leaking methane (almost 200 times more potent green house gas over its 12 year lifetime than CO2) captured by team of graduates students at Boston University
Kite used by Chinese students to measure and broadcast dangerous air pollution levels.
Hand held water and air pollution analysis unit (http://publiclab.org/wiki/spectrometer)