|From:||Center for Public Environmental Oversight <firstname.lastname@example.org>|
|Date:||Thu, 23 Apr 1998 10:08:51 -0700|
|Subject:||A FREIGHT TRAIN NAMED HYSTERIA|
This is from yesterdays Chicago Tribune. A FREIGHT TRAIN NAMED HYSTERIA It was a golden opportunity for Chicago-area public officials to do what they get paid to do--lead. Instead, every one of them--from village officials in suburban Frankfort all the way to U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Carol Moseley-Braun--stampeded to the nearest TV camera to join in a chorus of Chicken Little-style hand-wringing over the Navy's plans to bring napalm from California to be recycled at an East Chicago plant. As a result, they kept a perfectly sensible disposal and recycling operation from taking place and covered themselves in disgrace at the same time. Save some blame, also, for the news media, who forfeited the chance to be voices of reason during this episode. Napalm, of course, summons up fearsome images in the minds of Americans, who naturally associate it with the awesome destruction that American napalm bombs inflicted in Vietnam during the war there. Problem is, what was being shipped to Pollution Control Industries in northern Indiana were not bombs, which require high-temperature igniters to set off the vaporized napalm upon impact with the ground. It was just the napalm, a mixture of benzene and gasoline with 46 percent inert binder to give it a molasses-like consistency. It's flammable, but not explosive like the gasoline in tanker trucks that rumble down city streets daily. Yes, there was a chance of an accident, but a minuscule chance. Our "leaders" could have inquired, informed and generally led a rational--and calming--discussion on the matter. The news media, for our parts, could have explained the true, modest nature of the risk, rather than simply passing along the politicians' hysterical rantings. Instead, everyone chose to choreograph a public panic. Now we have a train with napalm stranded in Kansas, tons of the stuff still piled up back in California and some politicians suggesting that it all be shipped to an atoll in the South Pacific. Needless to say, this has not been our finest hour.
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