Logic: The St. Lawrence Cement Issue”
By Anthony Henry Smith, Written for the Hudson Valley Green
Three tadpoles were swimming happily
when they noticed their mother was absent. Suddenly, she reappeared.
“Mother,” they demanded! “Where have you been?
“ “I have been on land,“ she replied. “Land?“
they asked. “What is land?“ The mother knew land was
going to be difficult to explain, since the tadpoles had not yet
developed to the point where they could leave the water. “Ask
me questions about land and I will answer,” she told them.
“Can you swim in land?” asked the first. “No,”
she replied. “Land’s not like that.” “Can
you breathe it in and exhale it through your gills?” asked
the second. “No,” said the mother. “It’s
not like that either.” “Then could it be,” asked
the third, “that land is bright above you and dark the further
down you go?” “No,” she answered. “You
sit upon land. You don’t go down into it.” “Sit?”
They were puzzled. At this point the tadpoles went into a corner
and whispered among themselves. Then the eldest came forward to
speak for the three. “Mother,” the tadpole announced,
“we’ve decided! There is no such thing as land.”
There are many young adults among us who may very well say, “We’ve
decided! There is no such thing as Democracy.“
American democracy is more than a Utopian dream. It exists, but
you have to look for it. Certainly for more than two decades America
has rarely known a time when the needs of our people did not take
second place to money and corporate power. Our civil rights movement
and attempts to realize The Great Society are known to our youth
only as history. The Law itself, once the pride of our nation,
is far too often humbled by corporate power to become a set of
mere rules; rules that replace “conscience” in the
lives of too many.
There has been some recent positive social change. There is a
heightened awareness that the ecosystems surrounding us include
humanity and have a value beyond health, recreation, and aesthetics.
They are vital to the continuance of human life.
The environmental movement itself has changed in another way
few would have anticipated. Environmentalism within the not-for-profit
sector has become important as a last resort of liberal democracy.
As our government has moved ever further toward the right, abandoning
many of its responsibilities to the people in order to favor corporate
interests, functions of protection and conservation, including
many responsibilities of the Department of Environmental Conservation,
have been assumed by quasi private not-for-profit groups.
A debate between Sam Pratt of Friends of Hudson and Daniel Odescalchi
of St. Lawrence Cement was arranged by Dutchess County Legislator
Joel Tyner. It took place on July 28th at the Rhinebeck Town Hall
and was well attended. The setting was so stereotypically American,
it could have been a Norman Rockwell painting. Could have been
that is, except for one thing. Young people were, for the most
part, missing. It hardly comes as a surprise.
What’s really missing is democracy in our local, state,
and national government; a democracy informed by democratic families,
schools, workplaces and organizations.
The debate revealed nothing new other than the news that there’s
nothing‘s new. After nearly two years, it’s still
up to DEC Commissioner Erin Crotty to rule on whether any of the
issues raised by Friends of Hudson and others opposing the plant
are appropriate for adjudication.
According to Daniel Odescalchi, speaking for St. Lawrence Cement,
“The DEC is on the same side of the table as we are.”
In fact, Crotty has sided with SLC in saying the Albany weather
data SLC has been using to determine the direction and spread
of the plume of pollution is superior to more local weather data.
Warren Reiss, an attorney representing Scenic Hudson, differs.
Reiss says, “If you have the right tool available, any handyman
will tell you, you have to use that tool.” Of course the
real question is not what people who are handy may think, but
what does the law tell you about when you “have to”
use that tool? Groups opposed to the plant have raised that issue
before the Department of State’s Division of Coastal Resources
in a recent letter.
Friends of Hudson have already stated each fact a thousand times
over, like punished children writing on the blackboard. In the
more than two years they’ve been waiting for the DEC Commissioner
to act to bring this matter to adjudication (or not), Citizens
for a Healthy Environment has published an excellent small volume
titled “Understanding the Impact.”
It boils down to this: the financial interests of a single family
led by the billionaire Thomas Schmidheiny, a Swiss citizen who
lives near Zurich, are stacked against the common interests and
sovereignty of American citizens living in the Hudson Valley.
If built, his cement plant would be one of the two largest in
the US. Yes, Schmidheiny’s company does own the other plant
as well. Are you willing to sacrifice the health and well being
of Americans in the Hudson Valley for the sake of this individual
and his family? I’m not.
More Democracy can help, but not the private sector back door,
patch work, soup kitchen style democracy alone. What’s needed
is nothing less than our government and its agencies, (including
the State Department of Environmental Conservation) becoming truly
of, by, and for the people. In the meantime, Friends of Hudson
deserves your support.