Our Constitutional Roadmap to Environmental Security
Chapter One of If You Can Keep It
This is about the "domestic violence" clause in Article IV, Section 4 of the United States Constitution and how is can be used to get us through the environmental crises that we have brought upon ourselves. The clause has been sitting idle and unknown to the public for over two hundred years. During that period, our primary focus has been on rights: the right to vote and speak freely, property and privacy rights, to bear arms and have religious freedom, to name just a few. While the emphasis on rights is laudable, rights are only one side of the coin, the other side of which is responsibilities. The long forgotten domestic violence clause in Article IV, Section 4 is about responsibilities. I have become convinced that attaining security from environmental threats is impossible without our use of that clause.
It is with pleasure, therefore, that I make this introduction of the domestic violence clause to its owners you, the American people. This long overdue meeting is both necessary and urgent. We've gotten ourselves into a perilous environmental situation. If the men who wrote the Constitution were here now, they would characterize the clause as a roadmap that they left for us in a time capsule. They had the abiding knowledge that, in the end, we would turn out to be our own worst enemy. They were correct. That clause was designed to get us back to safety and security.
You will find it in your copy of the Constitution following Articles I through III, which create, respectively, the legislative, the executive, and the judicial branches of the U. S. government. The complete text of Article IV, Section 4 is as follows:
In brief, Article IV, Section 4 requires the United States to protect us against invasion and against domestic violence. The former is harm that other nations might do to us; the latter is the harm we're likely to inflict upon ourselves. Our perilous environmental circumstances constitute a condition of domestic violence under the Constitution of the United States. The purpose of this book is to explore how your survival and the well-being of your children depends on that roadmap left in a time capsule by the framers.
A few introductory remarks about how I define environmental harm will be helpful to you. I view environmental harms as the man-made vectors or agents that bring about or contribute to death, disease, ill health, diminution of human potential, or damage to property. The vectors can be direct or indirect, but are always multiple and bring about harm in ways that are beyond our capacity to measure or easily comprehend.
The easiest environmental vector of harm to understand is one person causing a direct and known injury to another. For example, a farmer who sends a field worker out to use dangerous chemicals without instructions or protective gear commits direct environmental harm to that field worker. An indirect environmental harm occurs when the worker's child is born with a neurological deficit owing to the parent's exposure. The child's impairment or diminution of human potential will be made worse by the effects of additional multiple exposures to toxic materials in his own environment. Impairment often helps to bring about criminal and antisocial behavior, the effects of which are quite real and harmful, although difficult to trace back to exposure of the field worker by the farmer. Well beyond the simple norms of proof upon which we base our reality, the child's problems are judged to be his own because the causative connection is beyond our capacity to measure or acknowledge.
If we consider the above example to be one web of environmental harm, picture the world as containing an immense and uncountable number of such webs all at the same time. They interact with one another in dizzying complexity, as when an entire population is burdened by certain toxic materials as well as being subject to local conditions. In addition to troublesome exposures in air, water, food, and consumer products, unnecessarily dangerous medicines and unhealthy nutrition choices combine to bring about inexorable declines in human health and human potential. To all of this burden, never before experienced by man, add the effects of global changes which are now becoming apparent. They include increases in ultraviolet radiation and carbon dioxide, a concomitant decrease in oxygen, global climate changes, and destruction of ecosystems upon which an ever increasing population relies for sustenance. These are the webs of morbidity that we have woven for ourselves. Together, they are what I define as our present condition of environmental harm our present condition of environmental domestic violence as envisioned by Article IV, Section 4 of the U. S. Constitution.
It is an effort for me to keep in mind the definition of environmental harms as being, at the same time, direct, indirect, multiple, beyond measure, and interacting vectors of damage. I urge you to undertake the same effort. Only when we stretch ourselves to understand the vast nature of the problem can we get anywhere near to the solution. Theoretical physicist, Richard Feynman, devoted his life to original thinking in order to arrive at solutions. He would have us stretch our imaginations "to the utmost, not as in fiction, to imagine things which are not really there, but just to comprehend those things which are there."
Continuing with introductions, I have been researching and writing about environmental matters since 1982. In 1981, I was employed as an environmental enforcement official at a state government department devoted to environmental protection. Although I saw and worked with some of the most competent people I have ever known, I understood even at a glance that the legal system we set up to protect us was woefully inadequate. Since then, I have been doing independent research to find a better way to handle environmental protection. That search led to the domestic violence clause. It was itching to be found and appears ready to be both studied and harnessed for serious environmental work.
Now, something about the readers. The vast majority of you care deeply about the environment. Having little or no experience with environmental laws, you may tend to believe that additional enforcement of them will make you safe. You are likely to take comfort from the sound of statutes like The Superfund, The Clean Air Act, and The Safe Drinking Water Act. Those of you who have had direct experience with our environmental laws and the regulatory system are more likely to understand those laws are grossly inadequate. However, not seeing an alternative, you address yourselves to those laws somewhat fatalistically in environmental organizations, businesses, government, and in academic pursuits.
Many of you are educators, health care professionals, criminal justice professionals, and employers. You do not yet perceive the connection between your worst problems and the environmental crisis It is the purpose of this book to help you make the connection so that you can participate in solutions through the domestic violence clause.
I have spoken to many teachers who have been in the field for as long as thirty years. Without exception, they describe significant declines in student performances over that period of time. They are not surprised to learn the part that environmental harms have played. The institutions in which teachers are trained and in which they work, however, have difficulty accepting the fact that they must play a hands-on role in environmental protection. Environmental harms are a major driving factor in educational decline that won't go away unless and until confronted by educators and educational institutions.
In the course of my legal career, I've had much opportunity to work with people in the criminal justice system, from the judiciary to the police and all through the penal system. The connection between environmental harms and criminality is so palpable that I recognized it easily on seeing recidivists over thirty years ago. Just as alcohol impairs the ability to postpone gratification and comport oneself in accordance with legal standards, so do toxins, and people are now burdened with toxins in amounts that are wildly beyond our genetic experience. If you are in the criminal justice system and want to stop the escalation of violence, you need to be involved in a hands-on way with environmental protection. You need to know more about the domestic violence clause.
Health care professionals the doctors, hospital staff, dietitians, etc. have been back-benchers, just watching an array of ineffective environmental laws allow the buildup of toxins within us beyond our genetic potential. In addition, those health care professionals have quietly watched the public's loss of biological wisdom in food habits, without weighing in on the side of sanity. Worse, many modern medicines and procedures tend to be powerful and unnecessary vectors of ill health in-and-of themselves. I have met with a number of young physicians who decry how tenaciously their medical societies and professional boards hold them to the use of such wasteful and harmful medicines and procedures. The rate of chronic illness in this country is increasing, not decreasing, while more and more money is being put into the present health care system every year. An understanding of environmental harms and the domestic violence clause can help to put health care professionals in the forefront of those who will be curbing ills that should not have befallen society in the first place.
I have met with employers, as well. They, like teachers, talk about a decline in worker capability and motivation over the last thirty years. Impairment is the rule, rather than the exception, and that is true in the ranks of both line employees and managers. An understanding of both the concept of environmental harm and the remedy of the domestic violence clause has the potential to bring employers and employees together in ways never before dreamed possible. The common enemy is our own lack of good judgment about the environment. Our errors and our shortsightedness must be corrected rather quickly.
I have saved the most crucial introduction for last. The vast majority of Americans do not truly comprehend the type of country that we've become. Continual drumbeating of propaganda and plaudits of self congratulations tell us that we are the cradle of democracy and the hope of the world. In fact, we are not that at all. In a permanent state of war since 1946, we now lack the vision necessary to maintain democratic institutions and to be a force for world peace. As such, we will continue to squander our public monies and our available resources on preparations for war. Devoting resources to protecting ourselves against environmental harms is likely to be little emphasized. The domestic violence clause is the much needed Constitutional counterweight to this nation's overindulgence in the ways of war.
James Madison warned that "a standing military force with an overgrown executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defense against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home." The tyranny now being practiced in our country that threatens our liberty is the military use of the great bulk of our public money. Further, the blood of our children has been too often pledged and spilled to protect the rights of companies to dominate the world's markets, resources, and labor pools. Appeals to patriotism and propaganda fool us into believing that we operate in defense of democracy around the world. We do not.
We will never have the resources needed to protect ourselves against environmental harms unless we see clearly what type of nation we've become and change our destructive pattern. To continue preparing for war is to keep open a useless second front that we ought no longer to invest with a false security. The damage we have done and are doing to ourselves is well beyond the capacity of any of our enemies, real or imagined.
No matter what your background may be, you are likely to delight in solutions to our environmental crisis through use of the domestic violence clause. To borrow a word from my scientific friends, you are likely to find that solutions through the use of Article IV, Section 4 are "exquisite."