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The Economics of Water

James Clingman, NNPA News Wire Columnist | 2/1/2016, 5:05 p.m.
I can hear the backroom discussion now: “We can save money if we stop taking our drinking water from Lake ...
James Clingman says that it would be great to see our doctors, psychologists, attorneys, scientists, engineers, and technical personnel lend their talents to help in Flint, Mich., like we do in other countries.

“Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink.”

— Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

I can hear the backroom discussion now: “We can save money if we stop taking our drinking water from Lake Huron and start using water from the Flint River instead.” Those may not be the exact words, but the leaders of Flint, Michigan, including the two recent Emergency Managers, City Council, the EPA, and the Governor, have caused a catastrophe.

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James Clingman

Money is the common theme among the perpetrators in Flint; it is always lurking in the shadows of the many problems facing Black and poor people. Now, in a city that is approximately 60 percent Black and has a 40 percent-plus poverty rate, money trumps life again. Money trumps the long-term effects on more than 8,000 children, many of whom will grow up suffering from the physical, cognitive, and emotional illnesses caused by lead poisoning. As one person said, “Everybody in the city has been poisoned, everybody.”

Sophia A. McClennen (Salon.com) wrote, “The story of Flint is the story of what happens when profits are more important than people. What Michael Moore captured in [Roger and Me] was a clear prelude to what is happening [in Flint] today. First, Flint residents lost their jobs. Twenty-five years later they have lost their water and their health. There are ten dead…from Legionnaire’s disease in Flint and countless others with serious illnesses from contaminated water.”

Politicians are playing games with this emergency, and trying to garner votes from it. Remember Rahm Emmanuel’s quote? “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that is it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” Where is the “opportunity” in this crisis? Was the slow response to this crisis really just an opportunity to get more money?

This is far from being about what party is in charge. Some folks are blaming the Republican Governor and some are blaming the city council, on which the Democrats hold a 7-1 majority. But so what? The damage is done; the right question is “Now what?”

Many people have marshaled their forces to assist the people of Flint, first, by bringing water. The Feds have granted a measly $5 million to help but the POTUS, who went to nearby Detroit but did not go to Flint, denied the request by the governor to declare the situation a “major disaster,” which under law applies to natural disasters and “certain other situations.” Isn’t this a “certain other situation”? Isn’t it just as important as getting water to Katrina victims and providing healthcare for Flint’s citizens?

It would be great to see our doctors, psychologists, attorneys, scientists, engineers, and technical personnel lend their talents to help, like we do in other countries. In light of this terrible situation, Flint is in need of all the services, assistance, contributions, and prayers that we can muster. By the way, so are the folks in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, where the citizens are suffering from all sorts of diseases and untimely deaths, because of the still lingering effects of the BP oil spill. Earnest McBride of the Jackson Advocate has covered this story.