Book Examines Corporate Greed, Civic Engagement
Using examples from across the country, an Alma College professor’s new book examines corporate irresponsibility and civic engagement.
Political Science Professor Ed Lorenz says Civic Empowerment in an Age of Corporate Greed was inspired by a decade of involvement with the Pine River Superfund Citizens Task Force.
“The environmental problems along the Pine River are a classic consequence of corporate irresponsibility,” he says. “People complained about the pollution from the Michigan Chemical Plant in Gratiot County right from the beginning in 1935. Now, the Environmental Protection Agency has admitted that at a minimum, it’s going to cost $370 million more to clean the river up.”
While much of Lorenz’s book focuses on the Pine River watershed, which contains three Superfund sites, it also discusses the largest food contamination accident in United States history, stock and financial manipulations and a massive shift of jobs offshore.
Over the years, he says he has visited many of the cities at the heart of these incidents. Along the way, he has discovered story after story of corporate irresponsibility, drawing similarities to the story of St. Louis, Mich., and Velsicol – Michigan Chemical, the company responsible for the massive dumping of waste byproducts into the Pine River.
“It was really great to visit these places because you realize how much we share in common,” he says. “I would talk to the people in these towns and tell them about St. Louis. They were sympathetic and shared their own stories.”
Lorenz says there’s an overlying fundamental problem in the country that allows some company leaders to make a huge fortune while trashing the environment, the workers and even the shareholders.
“One of the themes of the book is confronting the abuse of greed,” he says. “It’s a criticism, too, of officials who get trapped in between interest groups. Companies need to feel pressured by citizens, and citizens need to feel like they can do something about corporate irresponsibility.”
The other theme of Lorenz’s book is empowerment. He cites St. Louis as an example of a community that has used civic engagement to make a difference.
“Average people were able to bring change by going to meetings and confronting experts,” he says. “They showed that you can challenge and consciously respond to corporate irresponsibility. You just have to be willing to get informed, be organized and expect more.”
Posted: Fri, April 13th, 2012 at 12:55PM