by C. Matthew Luther
A scene from Breaking Bad, a post-apocalyptic vision or a canvas for graffiti, 53 EPA Superfund sites are scattered throughout urban and rural areas in the State of Wisconsin. The Environmental Protection Agency of the United States defines a Superfund site as an uncontrolled or abandoned place where hazardous waste is located and possibly affecting the local ecosystem or people. These areas are further recorded as Remedial sites (long term clean up), Removal sites (short term hazardous material removal), and listed on the National Proprieties List for immediacy and time of action due to the amount of pollution. The money to clean up these location falls on the responsible party or property owner, but often these properties are abandoned or fall into ownership limbo and money is then allocated from Congress or what is known as the Superfund.
A common thread is present throughout these locations of a tragic division of human interaction with the environment that needs to be documented. It is an element of ignorance, hubris and unconscious blindness that has led these sites to become polluted, but the actions leading up to their declaration of Superfund site are not inaccessible and it is our responsibility as stewards of the land to ensure the education and documentation of such tragedies to prevent the same mistake happening again.
Often a sense of mischievous ignorance plays a part when a property owner just goes missing, but other times there is no direct source or individual, but a history of business in one location that have all been responsible for the exhaustion of the property. Yet it is that history of business or more so the lack of facility rejuvenation and ecological sustainability within a business plan that occurs. The problems drive deep into the history industrialisation and contemporary issues in a late capitalistic society when an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) seems to undermine the free market. It should be the inverse mindset that negotiates with the health and well being of the land as a priority to produce goods for sale.
The core ecological element for us as humans to remember is that although the issues I am addressing are within the geographical borders of Wisconsin, on the continent of North America, the issues of pollution affect the human condition globally. The toxicity of nuclear fallout at Chernobyl or Fukushima may not immediately affect my health, but will distress a global stream of ecological systems that will have diverse affects on all communities.
Daily we look to nature to validate our own reality and to ground our existence, aesthetics, and consciousness. Nature is an abstract entity with no clear demarcation beyond what we valiantly give as a description. It is our adverse interaction with the terrestrial and far to often our pollution of the environment that falsely authenticates the economics of society, but it is these interactions that we must identify, prevent, and educate ourselves from as not just harmful to the land or imitate populations, but all people and global communities. Education and the dissemination of information is a form of protest and intervention. It is not only the physical act of chaining oneself to a bulldozer to prevent the destruction of forest and earth, but the written word or documented image produced to reach beyond the commercial classroom into the public domain of interaction to empower as global network of education and protest.
All images were provided by C. Matthew Luther.
This work was submitted by C. Matthew Luther on 14 March 2014.