Posted by: Francis Koster Published: July 2, 2014

Removing Mom’s Blindfold to the Danger Facing Her Kids

Removing Mom's Blindfold to the Danger Facing Her Kids

by Francis P. Koster, Ed.D.

When I was a young boy on the verge of becoming a man, my dad invited my brother and me to a "special" fishing trip. He made it clear it was going to be a "guys" event for the three of us .

So we get our anchor dropped, and worms in the water. Then dad says "I just want you to know that you are becoming men now, and there are a few things I need you to understand."   My brother and I looked at each other in panic....we were trapped in the boat, and about to get "the talk".

So he says "Here is the thing. When you are out with girls, and get certain urges, just remember that if you would not do whatever it is in front of her mother, don't do it." That was the end of "the talk".

Turns out it is not a bad guiding principle for life.

Too bad our nation is going in a different direction. In some instances mom is now legally prohibited from monitoring the behavior of others as she tries to protect her children from dangerous food and environmental poisons. Worse yet, people who try to show where danger awaits can be jailed.

In the area of food safety, volunteers in Idaho surreptitiously recorded and publicized unsanitary processing of animals being slaughtered for human consumption. The national industry groups fought back by passing state laws that make it illegal to film or broadcast unsanitary practices, cruelty to animals, or dumping of tons of untreated hormone laden animal poop into public waterways. Nine states have passed laws (nicknamed AG-GAG laws) making it a crime for outsiders to record and disclose illegal activity in agriculture facilities, slaughterhouse and large animal feeding lots .[1] Other states are considering passing similar legislation.

Efforts are underway to limit public knowledge of threats from environmental pollution as well.  

In North Carolina, a bill was just introduced into the state legislature to take down 80% of the existing air quality monitors, [2] and limit the rest of them to monitoring only 6 pollutants. [3] These is not a cost cutting measure, because all of them are already up and running for years, and 80% of them are funded by the federal government.   Many believe it is to pave the way for lax enforcement of fracking laws.

At the same time, the front ranks of taxpayer funded public health defenders have been significantly reduced.   In North Carolina, since 2008, the environmental protection budget has been cut 52%.[4] Since 2011, in the water quality area alone, one out of every three jobs was eliminated,[5] and legal protections in place to protect state inspectors from retaliation for reporting violations were removed [6]

Some citizens are working to keep mom's empowered and her eyes active.

The Ladies of The Lake is an woman's volunteer organization located just north of Toronto, Canada on the shores of Lake Simco.   The lake, about 15 miles across, was dying from pollution from farms, factories, and homes.   The Ladies decided that they needed to attract some attention to the situation.

In 2006 The Ladies decided to launch a calendar featuring "cheeky not cheesy" photos of the neighborhood woman who cared about the lake - and surrounded the photos with disgusting facts about the lakes pollution. Inspired by the 2003 movie Calendar Girls, a similar effort in England, the project calendar sold 12,500 copies, and raised over $247,000 to further their work.[7] They also produced a wonderful citizens guide to water pollution called The Naked Truth - Going Behind The Science of Lake Simcoe. Publication of the information forced government and polluters to clean up their act..[8]

 Other groups are using drones to fly over suspected polluters. One group is called Show Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK).  They stunned the Las Vegas Nevada tourist crowd with upsetting videos of real unsafe animal husbandry practices they had filmed with hidden cameras that they projected on movie screens towed behind cars along the tourist loaded streets.

Leaders of the most visible of these efforts have been threatened with fines and jail for violating the 'ag-gag" laws

For those groups that need scientific instruments to record unsafe conditions, it is now possible for citizen volunteers to use portable "sniffers" take highly sophisticated measurements, and send them in to a central collection bank for analysis. These tools, costing around $200.00, were developed by citizen volunteers, and funded by KickStarter (an on line "crowdsourcing" way for people to make small donations to support specific projects.) The group is also developing cell phone Apps for the same purpose . You can see more by googling "crowdsourced environmental monitoring".[9]  

We have retreated a long way to get to a place where it is illegal to study and report behavior of those that may threaten the health of our loved ones, or threaten the environmental cops if they try to protect us.   Using modern technology, and old fashioned civic organizing, this trend can be reversed - but only if we behave like our parents would have when their vulnerable kids were entering risky waters.  


[1] Twin Falls Times-News June 25, 2014



[4] Personal communication Amy Adams, Appalachian Voices June 27 2014

[5] email from Human Resources at DENR 6/27/2014





Copyright 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

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Francis P. Koster Ed.D.

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