, Newburyport, MA

April 10, 2013

Gone with the wave

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

Anyone wondering how Newbury officials “are saying that homeowners can rebuild on oceanfront lots” (“Tax relief planned for owners of destroyed homes on Plum Island,” March 28) needs to consider a long-running historical precedent in the art of denial and defiance.

In light of our recent tendency to treat comparisons as equations, I must preface this with a reminder that 12 can be compared to 24 by noting the common denominators (2, 3, 4, and 6), by expressing them as dozens (one and two) or in relation to each other (half and double).

It would take a very low common denominator of another kind to claim that any of these three comparisons equates 12 with 24, as low as one saying that Plum Islanders believe in slavery or that Scarlett O’Hara’s Tara was built on a sand dune.


To this day many Southerners insist that the Civil War had less to do with slavery — which their textbooks still call a “benevolent institution” — than with states rights.

Today on Plum Island erosion has less to do with science — whose advocates are dismissed as “eco-nuts” — than with property rights.

They own the property, they have the rights.

This same attitude — that economic interests and ownership dictate rights — drives the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline.

No matter that just this month Americans have suffered two major spills in Arkansas and Texas, and that another, by rail, occurred in Canada where Keystone will originate.

No matter that increasing numbers of deformed fish are being taken out Athabasca Lake and River near the Keystone tar sands.

All that matters are the frequent television ads with colorfully dressed and smiling diverse casts telling us in lush drawls how “green” and “conscientious” companies such as General Electric and BP are, and how much BP “has learned” from its “experience” in the Gulf of Mexico.

With no use of the word “spill” or mention of the 11 men killed on their rig, you’d think BP had just completed a graduate program at Ole Miss or LSU.

No matter that these ads fly in the face of lawsuits filed by those whose livelihoods have been destroyed, an ongoing tactic BP took from GE, which has polluted the Hudson and Housatonic rivers beyond repair with decades of toxic waste.

Sounds exaggerated, but it’s an understatement to anyone who has read “The General Electric Superfraud,” (Harper’s, Dec. ‘09), or the last chapters of “The Hudson: A History” (2007) by Tom Lewis.

Opponents of Keystone warn of spills, but the highly financed damage control for those spills is already tightly scripted, well rehearsed, professionally acted, focus group tested, market driven and long running.

So it will remain until someone or something other than the Atlantic Ocean, the San Andreas Fault or some other child of Mother Nature, old or yet-to-be-born, finally has the un-American nerve to say No to money.

Jack Garvey

Plum Island