Thursday, August 19, 2004

Appreciation And A Lesson For Ignored Activists

I've written a couple of postings about the New York Times article on the administration's attack on the regulatory system and the excellent Washington Post series earlier this week (here and here) that highlights the ravages visited by the Bush administration upon OSHA and upon the science backing up workplace health and environmental protections.

But as good and well timed as these articles are, note that the inspiration behind them and information underpinning their arguments didn't just pop into the reporters' heads one night over a couple of beers. The groundwork for these articles had been laid over the past several months by a report and press conference on the "Special Interest Takeover" by Citizens for Sensible Safeguards (CSS), OMB Watch and the Center for American Progress, as well as conferences such as the recent event sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest focusing on "Integrity in Science" and a CSS report on the history of the Data Quality Act.

And don't forget recent articles, letters and speeches by scientists (some acknowledged by the Post and Times, some not) like David Michaels, Jennifer Sass, David Egilman, Sean Moulton, Barry Castleman, and David Rempel; bloggers like Chris Mooney, and labor health and safety activists too numerous to mention.

Interestingly, neither of the conferences or reports (nor many of the letters or speeches) mentioned above received much (if any) press at the time they were held. Yet, by publicizing the disastrous effect that seemingly obscure government regulatory changes have had on the health, safety and well-being of workers, communities and regular people in small towns, urban areas, and workplaces across the country, they created a buzz that the major media eventually couldn't ignore.

I left Washington, headed for Eugene, Oregon the day after the first Washington Post article appeared. Throughout National Airport that morning people were reading about what the Bush administration had done to worker safety in this country. Arriving in Eugene, I found people reading the same article reprinted in the Eugene Register-Guard.

The moral of the story? Keep on working, keep on researching, writing and fighting. Your efforts may not be recognized in the newspapers or the 6:00 news tomorrow or next week or next month, but eventually the truth will become "news," and the news will become general knowledge and finally the truth will ring too loud to be ignored.

And finally, don't forget the most important step in the political process. In this election year every potential voter needs to know about how Bush policies are affecting the health and safety of their children, their parents, their husbands and their wives. Are people going to vote on such "important" issues as gay marriage or on their likelihood of coming home alive and healthy from the mines or poultry processing plants; on gun control or the risk of their children or grandchildren being sickened or deformed by pesticides that are known to be hazardous? I don't know. But I do know that there's no way they can make an intelligent decision if they don't have all of the information in front of them.