This was an extremely depressing little film in many ways, but it was good to be aware of what people are facing in Cancer Alley, Louisiana. As a film on the effects of corporate greed, political corruption and the resulting deterioration of public health in the industrial age, this movie is worthy to stand alongside documentaries like “Blue Vinyl” and “Rachel’s Daughters”. The upshot of all these films taken together is that there is something deeply wrong and maladaptive about the modern lifestyle—a way of life which has been manufactured out of thin air in the last 100 years, and which seems to serve the best interests of no human being unless he or she is a shareholder in a major corporation.
Essentially, the message we receive in this movie and many others is simple: petroleum kills. The question naturally arises, looking at the multiplicity of harms that arise from the use of fossil fuels, whether it will ever be possible to make use of oil, gas or coal in an industrial capacity without creating more toxic waste than can be safely managed.
The central argument of most films in this genre appears to be that corporations are careless, greedy, and incapable or unwilling to monitor their environmental impact. This is doubtless true, and without doubt something should be done about it, but it seems to me that there is a more difficult and dangerous question that is not being asked: “Is there ANY way, even theoretically, to use fossil fuels as a basic raw material for industrial production without creating many tons of extremely toxic waste?”
If there is not any way to use these substances without producing tons of hazardous waste, then “carelessness” cannot be the central issue at stake. If there is no way to EVER use petroleum cleanly, and to manufacture plastics, fertilizers, cosmetics, fabrics and building materials out of this substance without creating a lethally concentrated slurry of heavy metals and carcinogens, then the only way for a corporation to be less “careless” is to discontinue the use of petroleum as a raw material entirely.
In the end, there is no “safe” place to dump lethally toxic waste, and any attempt to transport the toxic material away from the site where it was produced is wasted effort and wasted expense. In effect, they would just be picking a new land to poison, a new community to destroy with cancer. Moving the waste to another location does not make it go away. There is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. The Earth is a single biosphere, and there is nowhere to hide from poisons like these.