At Kent State, eight years ago, we killed our own children. We finally went ahead and made plain the substance of our hanging threat to all the lives of our children. If you do not do as we have done, if you do not continue what we do, we who have brought you here, we will take you out; we who feed and clothe you and teach you the words that you use, the name that is your name, we will destroy you even unto death. –June Jordan (1978)
The lead crisis in Flint, Michigan, offers a quintessential example of the social origins of our abiotic environments. Our sociality imprints upon even the most elemental of Earth’s matter.
Following up resident complaints about discoloration, taste, and smell, Virginia Tech researchers tested 271 Flint homes for lead in their tap water. From 27 parts per billion, five times greater than concentrations considered safe, an exposure leading to cardiovasular problems, kidney damage and neurological morbidity, the investigators found lead levels as high as over 5,000 pbb, a level the Environmental Protection Agency defines as “toxic waste”.