Let’s Not Forget About Flint
By Isabella Rolz
For the first couple of months of 2016, I had the opportunity to get involved and help with the crisis in Flint Michigan while I was in Ann Harbor.
As an international student with a great desire to improve my knowledge on environmental and political issues, the Flint water crisis caught my interest, specifically since it is a conflict that has generated controversy socially, economically, politically and environmentally.
As a local professor told me, water is a natural asset of strategic importance, because it satisfies basic needs, it supports many economic activities, and is essential for environmental development. This makes the management and governance of water a political, social and environmental issue.
It was in this exact moment I realized that in politics there are many factors that contribute to its change, and that something that seems simple like water, can drastically affect the world of politics. This occurrence, made me get engaged in American politics, especially because this subject in the United States is very complex.
Flint, Michigan, is the perfect example of not only a crisis resulting from a contaminated water supply, but also from inadequate leadership by Michigan’s governor, Rick Snyder. It all started in April 25, 2014 when the city’s officials agreed to switch its water supply from Detroit’s system to the Flint River. This system change was made to reduce costs.
After various investigations, it was discovered that several water samples contained high levels of lead. “A study dating back to 2011, showed the Flint River water supply needed to be treated with an anti-corrosive agent in order to be fit for human consumption, as required by federal law. This study and law was ignored when officials decided to use the river as the primary water source for the city,” according to Rawstory.
These types of crises are not unique and, unfortunately, they happen more often in developing countries like Guatemala, my country of birth. Following the same pattern as Flint, it is the combination abuse of governmental power, marginalized communities and the neglect of the environment that originate these situations.
It is truly a tragedy that in the United States, a similar environmental crisis happened in this decade. It is unacceptable that such environmental pollution occurred in Michigan, a state surrounded by the Great Lakes. However, from this crisis, I learned a lot more from American politics and was able to connect a concern happening in North America, with a similar one in my native country.
Keep up with Isabella on Instagram, @isarolz!