Five Years

“Five Years”
Pushing through the market square
So many mothers sighing
News had just come over
We had five years left to cry in
News guy wept when he told us
Earth was really dying
Cried so much his face was wet
Then I knew he was not lying

David Bowie – 1972

Five years. That’s how long EnviroReporter.com has been in existence. On May 18, 2006, Denise Anne Duffield and I launched this website breaking a story about a biomedical nuclear waste dump in Brentwood California.

That story helped stop a $4 billion plan by George W. Bush’s Veterans Administration to develop the West LA VA for private and commercial purposes. After years of delay, the VA has recently released a voluminous report on the state of the dump after spending over $1 million on tests performed in the wrong spots as we exposed with the LA Weekly. We are currently reviewing that report.

In this time, with everything we have done, with all the amazing things that have happened, we never thought we’d get to this place and time and not know if there will even be five more years.

Multiple meltdowns in Japan spewing massive amounts of fissile radiation thousands of feet into the sky. The Pacific Ocean getting pounded by Plutonium-239, Cesium-137, Iodine-131 in a Pandora’s Box of the most deadly forms of radiation known.

High radiation readings around the world including in the United States which has seen some radiation findings thousands of times normal in our water, air, food and soil. Yet in early May, the Environmental Protection Agency turned off most of its detecting for the fiasco in Fukushima saying that it was impossible for any of the unknown amounts of radiation to harm this country – even as Japan is decimated by the disaster which continues to mushroom.

The government has deserted the American people and left them with no way to even know if fallout is impacting them until the EPA resumes ‘normal testing’ this August. It is beyond abhorrent.

Index page of EnviroReporter.com on May 18, 2006

The need for information about the greatest single environmental crisis the world has ever faced, global warming aside, is so great that we started our own Radiation Station days after the meltdowns began in an attempt to at least let the millions of people in the Los Angeles Basin know how hot it may be getting.

The response has been overwhelming. After being featured on KTLA News and in LA Weekly, well over a million people have come to Radiation Station and generated over 1,600 comments and formed a dedicated chat group. Lucky for Southern California, courtesy of the jet stream that has mostly missed us, we’ve not reported too many extreme ambient radiation levels over the last two months though one rain and our Hepa filter dust readings of 42.4% and 44.2% respectively over background were noteworthy.

No, we didn’t expect to be doing this five years ago, but these are unprecedented times.

Something else I couldn’t have imagined five years ago, and certainly not twenty years ago, was the Queen’s visit to Ireland, the place where my career as an investigative journalist began.

In the summer of 1983, I visited the six counties of northern Ireland for the first time. By nightfall of my first day in Belfast, I was nearly shot and was arrested for leading a riot. I was subsequently released in the wee morning hours after it was determined that I was mistakenly detained.

I wrote about this experience in 1985 for the Los Angeles Reader newspaper in a cover story called “An American in Belfast — He went to Ireland because he was Irish. The British arrested him for the same reason.”

That cover story was a watershed in my career as a journalist and led to my coverage of “The Troubles” for the Reader, Los Angeles Herald Examiner and a number of other publications including LA Weekly.

In 1986, I returned to the north for the L.A. Weekly to begin a series of investigative pieces for the paper about the war in the north of Ireland between Ulster Loyalists backed by the British Army and Royal Ulster Constabulary against the Volunteers of the Irish Republican Army.

Days after first meeting and interviewing republican party Sinn Fein’s President Gerry Adams in 1986, I nearly had my head blown off by a British soldier during a night of riots. Were it not for a Volunteer opening up on a British Saracen armored car from which the trooper had fired, I might have been killed.

Not everyone has avoided the bombs and bullets that had dominated Northern Irish politics before the historic Good Friday Agreement of 1998 brought a tenuous peace to Northern Ireland. Adams was seriously wounded in 1984 when loyalist gunmen sprayed the car he was in with 20 bullets hitting him a number of times.

Today, Adams is widely hailed for his crucial role in shaping the peace process that has led Northern Ireland this spring to a largely self-governing status. Its new governing body has included members of Sinn Fein, like Martin McGuiness, and former die-hard opponents like the late Reverend Ian Paisley, the legendary Protestant firebrand who led the Democratic Unionist Party.

Gerry Adams, Denise Anne Duffield and Michael Collins in Long Beach California 2007

Anything is possible, Denise Anne and I know that. She is more than one of the finest designers, editors and performance artists I have ever known; she is now my gorgeous newlywed bride having betrothed me last May in a castle in Kalamazoo Michigan.

That unforgettable day reaffirmed to me that dreams can come true if one set’s one mind, heart and soul to it. Make no mistake, living and loving to the fullest this marvelous woman has made me aim higher and farther than ever before.

Today, watching Queen Elizabeth II visit Ireland, I looked on silently at the RTE coverage of the first English monarch to visit the Emerald Isle in exactly 100 years. I stared in stunned amazement as she visited Croke Park in Dublin to pay her respects.

This amazing fete of historic reconciliation occurred where during the Irish War of Independence on November 21, 1920, the Royal Irish Constabulary, supported by the British Auxiliary Division entered the Gaelic soccer stadium, shooting indiscriminately into the crowd of fans killing fourteen. These murders, which became known as Bloody Sunday, were in retaliation for the assassination of fourteen British intelligence officers, known as the Cairo Gang, by Irish revolutionary Michael Collins’ team of gunmen earlier that day.

And now here is the Queen of England laying a wreath, bowing her head and in one monumentally brave and gracious moment, helping to wipe away 800 years of hatred between the Irish and British peoples. This trip is one of Queen Elizabeth’s finest accomplishments done with grace, poise and an endearing charm that is not normally attributed to the monarch.

Later today, at a State Dinner at Dublin Castle, the Queen delivered an historic speech of peace that began with her speaking in Irish. I thought of all the pain and suffering, bravery and sacrifice that had led to this day.

And it’s just like any other day that’s ever been. Except that there are multiple meltdowns in Japan threatening life on this planet, runaway global warming, thousands of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert, a global economic crisis and a public dulled into complacency by never-ending bad news.

Today however there is some good news. EnviroReporter.com got five years.

Let’s not take even one second for granted folks, and work as we hard as we can, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll get a few more. Anything is possible.

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  1. Chase says:

    As of May 18, 2011
    “…well over a million people have come to Radiation Station”

    I can hear a million people cheering.
    Like the sound of a rushing river.

    Can’t wait for that 100 million mark! “woo-hoo!”

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