Jedediah Purdy writes in the New Yorker about the politics of “no ones job” and how it is seen in the response to the chemical leak in West Virginia’s Elk River.
Last Thursday an estimated seventy-five hundred gallons of MCMH, “a chemical used to remove impurities from coal, ran into the Elk from a one-inch hole in a tank belonging to a company called Freedom Industries.” The chemical spill left the state’s water supply nearly unusable for hundreds of thousands of residents.
Asked over the weekend whether there should have been more oversight and emergency planning, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin replied, “I’m not someone who runs West Virginia American Water.” One might ask who is. It is not just a matter of the name of the C.E.O. of a private company with a monopoly on a major public good; it is a question of who is responsible for providing one of the most basic human needs, clean and safe water, and how the public can hold them to that responsibility. The crisis is a study in what it means to have a political system that gives no answer to that question. Meanwhile, the Elk River joins the Kanawha and flows on to Ohio, carrying a new chemical load that no one wants to own.
A study by the UN estimates that by “2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world’s population could be living under water stressed conditions.”
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Today’s Question: Is Minnesota prepared for a world where water scarcity is widespread?