By Emily Schwartz Greco and William A. Collins
March 27, 2014
Keeping track of all the latest chemical spills and other devastating events is impossible.
It’s hard not to love mediocre, bad, or even awful movies that portray a post-apocalyptic or utterly dysfunctional future. If you’ve watched Logan’s Run, Water World, The Day After Tomorrow, AI, or Soylent Green more than once, you’ll know what we mean.
But there’s nothing to love about the real-life disasters that flit across our headlines and quickly vanish from consciousness.
Consider the Freedom Industries toxic leak. Thanks to corporate negligence, a gusher of the coal-cleaning chemical crude MCHM poisoned the water near Charleston, West Virginia, earlier this year.
More than two months later, many residents still don’t trust their local tap water. With good reason: There’s no solid research about MCHM’s impact on human health.
And remember the fertilizer plant explosion and fire that devastated West, Texas? That disaster, which the small rural community blames on corporate malfeasance, killed 12 first responders and three others, injured 200 people, and unleashed an estimated $100 million in property damage.
Recuperating and rebuilding will take years. The town of West is sure to be back in the news for a split second on April 17 when the town marks the first anniversary of its catastrophe. Blink and you’ll miss it.
Other new disasters have fouled the land, air, and water too. A Duke Energy coal ash spill in North Carolina poisoned the Dan River on Feb. 2, unleashing — you guessed it — allegations of corporate shenanigans.
The latest calamities may never rank among the world’s biggest man-made disasters. That distinction mainly belongs to epic fails recognizable with just one or two words, such as Bhopal, Exxon Valdez, and Chernobyl. But they’re definitely contenders.
And while people clearly suffer after the media moves on, it’s hard to lengthen our collective attention span. After all, how many disasters can you worry about at once?
Meanwhile, scientific certainty about the urgency of doing something about the worldwide menace of climate change before it’s too late has coalesced.
Here’s the good news: Movies about how society will adapt after life as we know it ends are bound to get better.
Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit national editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies. Follow her on Twitter @ESGreco. OtherWords columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative and a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut www.OtherWords.org.