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article imageOp-Ed: Maybe Dr. Seuss’ Lorax needs to visit Dow

By Justin King     Feb 20, 2014 in Environment
There was never a time the Lorax was more needed than today in Bhopal, India. It’s been 30 years since a chemical leak killed around 15,000 and contaminated the area. People still live in the area, and it has never been cleaned up.
In case someone is unfamiliar with the plot of the Dr. Seuss book or the 2012 film adaptation by Universal Studios, an industrialist moves into a pristine area, and begins development despite the Lorax’s warning, and after a short amount of time the company has destroyed and polluted the area to the point where people have to breath bottled air.
The fight to make the Bhopal area livable again, gain compensation, and institute rehabilitative programs for victims has been an ongoing struggle for the last 30 years. It’s a fight that continues today, literally. Today in New Delhi and New York City, activists were at United Nations buildings in attempt to garner support for their cause.
Even for those unconcerned with most pollution issues or even protection of endangered species, it should be noted that in this case, one of the species endangered by the contamination is not some seemingly inconsequential subspecies of bird or plant. Human beings died and are now living in contaminated areas. In Bhopal humans are the endangered species.
Woman expresses grief and anger at the lives lost during the disaster.
Woman expresses grief and anger at the lives lost during the disaster.
Sanjay Verma
In 1984, when the disaster occurred, Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) owned the facility. Dow Chemical Company bought UCC in 2001, making it a wholly owned subsidiary and in doing so, gained all of the assets of the company. In 2013, UCC held well over 700 patents in the United States and overseas. The financial summaries are omitted from the 2014 annual corporate filing. However, the last quarterly filings from 2013 show that in three months, UCC had net sales of $1.8 billion. UCC had several warnings that were even more direct than the warnings given to the industrialist by the Lorax.
While Dow reaps the benefits of the UCC purchase, it seems to care little about the moral liabilities and social responsibilities that accompanied it. After providing survivors with a $500 payment for a lifetime of disability, Dow spokesperson Kathy Hunt famously stated
You can't really do more than that, can you? $500 is plenty good for an Indian.
The main difference between Dow and the fictional Once-ler is that after seeing the destruction he caused, the Once-ler felt the need to attempt to right the wrongs done to the environment and society. Dow doesn’t seem to have any feelings at all for those living with the plight caused in pursuit of the company’s profits, other than perhaps contempt. Dow recently filed yet another lawsuit against the activists attempting to raise awareness of the unresolved situation in Bhopal.
American satirist Ambrose Bierce once said that a corporation was
An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.
Nobody today would be able to lodge a valid argument against this criticism of a corporation that refuses to take actions in the direction that any with a moral compass would point to.
A Dow Chemical Company plant is seen on December 8  2008 in Torrance  California
A Dow Chemical Company plant is seen on December 8, 2008 in Torrance, California
David Mcnew, Getty/AFP/File
Those in the United States that are typically quick to dismiss tragedies occurring in lands seldom thought of and never visited should realize that the situation in Bhopal could easily be replayed in the United States if companies come to the conclusion that cleaning up environmental disasters is not a necessity. Americans sit with an unknown amount of damage caused by a leak in West Virginia. So when one happens to glance upon photos of the desolated Bhopal, it would be wise to remember the inscription on the stone in the child’s storybook. That scene will be the future of areas in the United States. “Unless.”
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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