I was lecturing Prayers, my favorite feral cat. The news is hardly ever new, I told him. At best, it’s a reminder that the people who run this country now might be even less enlightened than the idiots who, generations ago, fought efforts to clean up our ongoing environmental mess.
“I hope you ain’t talkin’ about me,” Swamp Rabbit said as he approached from Tinicum swamp. “I ain’t got nothin’ to do with that mess.”
Prayers bolted into the swamp. I told Swamp Rabbit that the U.S. Supreme Court recently dealt a blow to public health concerns by ruling that the Environmental Protection Agency can no longer regulate — i.e., guard against — pollution of wetlands unless the wetlands in question have “a continuous surface connection” with oceans, rivers, or other bodies of water.
“As if everything on the planet isn’t connected,” I said. ” As if pollutants everywhere don’t eventually empty into the same stream we all draw from.”
Most of the Supremes believe — or pretend to believe — that the Clean Water Act isn’t clear enough in its language to justify blanket federal protection of wetlands. The mainstream media isn’t really challenging their arguments. It’s up to Congress to better clarify the law, which isn’t likely to happen given the current makeup of the House and Senate.
The court ruling is, in the words of a National Wildlife Federation official, “the latest sign that many decision makers in Washington have lost touch with the increasingly fragile state of the natural systems that provide drinking water, flood protection and critical habitat for people and wildlife in every state.”
“The war is never over,” I said. “There are always new yahoos to replace the yahoos who were cool with pollution levels back in the ’60s, when rivers were catching fire.”
“What you talkin’ about now?” said Swamp Rabbit, who is much younger than me. “Ain’t no river ever caught fire.”
I told him about the Cuyahoga River fire of 1969, one of the events that alerted environmentally conscious people to the fact that pollution caused by unregulated industries was poisoning us. The fire was the subject of Randy Newman’s “Burn On,” a satiric song released in 1972.
“I ain’t never heard that song,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Ain’t heard of Randy Newman neither.”
“Here, I’ll play it for you,” I said after calling up the song on my phone. “And I’ll send it to Ed Sheeran. Maybe he’ll steal it and turn it into a big hit.”
Footnote: In case you’ve been in a long-term coma, here’s a recent piece about corruption on the U.S. Supreme Court.