The Impact of Terrorism on the Environment
Today many people will be offering up reflections on the tragedy of September 11, 2001. This act of violence, which shook Americans to their very core and cast doubt on a Presidential administration, one that would eventually prove to be less than capable at handling national tragedies, sent shock waves through our world.
Today many people will write about the way that 9/11 affected human rights and the privilege of privacy, created an unjustified war that we are still trying to find our way out of, and cost the lives of countless rescue personnel who will always be remembered as heroes.
In the clamor of these remembrances, there is one voice that is silent. Mother Earth. Few will choose to focus on the negative impact of these terrorist attacks on the environment, because it is not nearly as visible an effect.
However, the damage that was caused to the planet on this fateful day, not to mention the continued environmental degradation that has been allowed in order to bring “freedom” and “democracy” to countries in the Middle East, might possibly be the most fatal outcome of all.
When the Twin Towers were so viciously and unexpectedly attacked on September 11th, all of lower Manhattan was enveloped in toxic dust clouds rising almost 1000 feet into the air. Thanks to drifting winds at the time of the attack, these dust clouds slowly moved south, choking the inhabitants Brooklyn and Staten Island, slowly depositing an unknown cocktail of gases and airborne particulates all over everything.
In the days and weeks following the attack the Environmental Protection Agency gave assurances to New Yorkers that the dust permeating Lower Manhattan and the smoke still emanating from Ground Zero did not pose a health risk. The agency issued five press releases within ten days of the attack assuring people that the air was safe to breathe, despite an absence of data to support such assurances.
In August of 2003, it was revealed that the EPA had been muzzled by the Bush administration. EPA Inspector General Nikki Tinsley issued a report on August 21, 2003, admitting that the reassurances were unfounded, and that the public statements of the agency were being influenced by the National Security Council, under the direction of the White House. The EPA, according to the report, had been influenced to ‘add reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones’” (from 911research.wtc7.net).
Subsequent testing of air, soil and water samples taken from the Ground Zero site months and even years after the attacks confirmed lingering levels of asbestos as well as unknown toxic substances.
In his attempt to remain the triumphant leader of the city, then Mayor Rudy Giuliani seized control of the cleanup of Ground Zero, taking control away from established federal agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, according to a May 14, 2007 New York Times article, titled “Ground Zero Illness Clouding Giuliani’s Legacy.”
Due to botched inspections and a clean-up process fraught with misinformation, we may never truly know the extent of the environmental damage caused by this attack.
Today, all Americans will reflect on the ways they have been affected by this violent tragedy. May we also reflect on the ways our violent tendencies will affect the wellness of our children and grandchildren, and may we refrain from engaging in this “solution” which ends only in death.
Read more Care2 perspectives on the anniversary of that traumatic day:
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