The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on June 4, 1998 · Page 10
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 10

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Thursday, June 4, 1998
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B2 THURSDAY. JUNE 4. 1998 THE SALINA JOURNAL George B. Pyle ', editorial page editor Opinions expressed on this page are those of the identified writers. To join the conversation, write a letter to the Journal at: P.O. Box 740 Salina, KS 67402 Fax: (785) 827-6363 E-mail: SJLetters® saljournal.com Quote of the day "Programs aimed at helping individuals to escape from their communities while leaving impoverishment intact do not really address the problem. If every person earned a Ph.D., we would hear great seminars at the soup kitchens unless homelessness was also addressed." Richard Levins, Ph.D. Harvard School of Public Health By GEORGE B. PYLE / The Salina Journal Cleaning up our act THE ISSUE Feedlot operator loses lawsuit THE ARGUMENT Real rules would protect law-abiding stockmen T he bad news is, a Sedgwick County "farmer" by the name of Phil Blocker was allowed to get away with pouring cattle waste and other muck onto his neighbors' land for more than five years, while state health officials did no more than send a few sharply worded letters. The good news is, a Sedgwick County jury last week slapped Blocker with a $15,000 civil penalty and encouraged the judge to tack on some significant punitive damages. This should be a lesson to the irresponsible livestock operators who give their whole profession a bad name, and to the state agency that is supposed to be protecting both that name and the people's environment. Kansas is an agricultural state, and its laws provide agricultural uses with a large benefit of the doubt. A feedlot, for example, cannot be declared a nuisance even if its pollution, smell and vermin clearly meet the average person's definition of the word. But the operators of dirty feedlots can be sued if the operation violates state law. The jury found that Blocker's operation did violate state regulations. The state found so, too, but, according to officials who testified at the trial, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment managed only to send him several warning letters between 1993 and 1996. KDHE also levied a $2,500 fine, but never saw the color of Blocker's money. While the $15,000 award could serve as a proper warning to any other livestock operations that take too little care with how their doings impact their neighbors, it can hardly have covered the legal fees, much less the actual property damage, suffered by the neighbors who sued. That is why the neighbors should not have had to resort to such a long and expensive remedy. State agencies such as KDHE are supposed do that for us, at least in cases where the agency has already determined that state laws are being broken. As cattle feedlot operators face growing hostility from encroaching suburbanites, and as others see large profits to be made from large-scale hog operations, everyone in the livestock business should realize that the best way to protect their industry would be the existence of a state agency that polices that industry and keeps it clean. All livestock operations will be much more welcome neighbors if KDHE or other agencies do, and are seen to be doing, their job. A few really serious fines, fines that get collected, and perhaps a few cease- and-desist orders enforced by a phalanx of sheriffs deputies and Highway Patrolmen, would be the best public relations tools honest and law-abiding livestock operators could have. Right now, the people of Kansas don't think that of their state agencies. They should insist that things change. And so, for their own good, should the stockmen of Kansas. Let them know - Washington, D.C. • SEN. SAM BROWNBACK: 141 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510; Phone: (202)224-6521; Fax: (202) 228-1265; E-mail: sam_brownback@brownback.senate.gov • SEN. PAT ROBERTS: 302 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510; Phone: (202) 224-4774; Fax: (202) 224-3514; E-mail: pat_roberts@roberis.senate.gov • REP. JERRY MORAN: 1217 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515; Phone: (202) 225-2715; Fax: (202) 225-5124; E-mail: jerry.moran@mail.house.gov • PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C. 20500; Phone: (202) 456-1414; Fax: (202) 456-2883; E-mail: president@whitehouse.gov T BY GEORGE To stay healthy, see the big picture LETTERS TO THE JOURNAL SJLetters @ saljournal.com Why tempt us with shows we cannot see? As it has now happened twice within one month, I have to ask why you would do such a thing? Why do you put a feature story on the cover of TV Week about a program most Journal subscribers cannot see? You recently featured a new Shelly Long series, "Kelly Kelly," shown on the WB network, not available on Salina Cable TV. More recently you published a feature on a spy thriller, "Jack Higgins' Thunder Point," starring Kyle MacLachlan, shown on The Movie Channel, not available on Salina Cable TV. GEORGE B. PYLE The Salina Journal Our very health is determined both by our choices and by the choices of others W ICHITA — Professor Richard Levins looked up from his microscope and realized that the cause of human disease is not swimming around on a glass slide. The cause of disease is all around us, in the way we live, the way we treat each other, the way we limit people's choices and punish them for making the wrong ones. We must, Levins says, see the big picture. Levins, who has a Ph.D. in zoology and has done tons of work on the diseases that affect people, animals and plants, is professor of population science at the Harvard University School of Public Health. He brought his message to one of the groups that pays for his work, The Kansas Health Foundation, at its annual Leadership Institute here Tuesday evening. The Kansas Health Foundation knows something about big pictures. The other feature of the evening was the presentation of the foundation's annual Community Health Leadership Award. It went, not to a doctor or a nurse or a chemist, but to Johnnie Cartledge, manager of Cessna Aircraft Company's 21st Street Facility. As an aggressive outpost Cessna has established in one of Wichita's less prosperous neighborhoods, this training facility does more than make better aircraft workers. It makes healthier people. Poor people don't get good medical care. Their children don't get enough to eat, and often aren't properly diagnosed for vision or other problems that would be easily corrected in more affluent homes. Levins takes a theory born in plant science and applies it to human life. An idea called Schmalhausen's Law holds that living things that have most of what they need can easily tolerate the loss of one thing. For example, corn in good soil can easily survive extremes of temperature, while corn in poor soil cannot. Children in financially healthy families can withstand illness, accident, premature pregnancies, even minor scrapes with the law. It can all be corrected or gotten around. Children in poor families already have two strikes against them. All it might take is one bad decision, or one moment of bad luck, to condemn a poor child to a life on the margins. Poverty, thus, is a cause of disease just as much as any germ. So is the environment in which we live. But even rich people in our culture eat too much of the wrong things and get too little exercise. When they get sick, they rush to pay for medical care that might make things worse — exposing them to the kinds of infections T ABROAD AT HOME OU THE niev JAY", u«s OUR GROIWO FERJlLrt.es &ARD6M AERATES COWDlTfoNS It is false to pretend that our own fate is either totally in the hands of each individual or totally a result of causes beyond the control of the individual found only in hospitals, surgery they don't really need or antibiotics that only encourage the growth of germs that are immune to antibiotics. So even the lives of the rich are a mixture of the choices we make and the choices forced upon us. It is false, Levins insists, to pretend that our own fate is either totally in the hands of each individual or totally a result of causes beyond the control of the individual. Individual decisions count, and so does the environment in which those decisions are made. The two cannot be separated. The most obvious application of that theory is in the discussion of crime and punishment. The individual who commits a crime, garage burglary or school-yard shooting, has made a bad choice. But that choice, and the next one, was made from among the options presented, choices that might be foolishly limited by poverty, dis- crimination or other social factors. This thinking also applies to public health. People who eat junk, sit all day and pay no attention to their health are making bad choices. But the water we drink, the air we breathe and the soil we live on and draw our food from is either healthy or poisonous due to the actions of others, actions that can only be controlled though joint, often government,' action. Science is failing to deal with many health problems, Levins says, because scientists have too narrow a focus. They look for the germ that causes an illness and miss the pollution, flooding, soil erosion or some other factor that causes that germ to thrive. And our culture is failing to deal with health problems because it has too narrow a focus. We look to doctors to make us healthy and let our mayors, governors and legislators off the hook. In Kansas, Levins said, there are wide differences in cancer rates, infant mortality rates and other factors from county to county, from ZIP code to ZIP code. But scientifically there is ho reason why all of Kansas cannot be as healthy as its healthiest neighborhood. It is just a matter of the choices we make. • George B. Pyle is the editorial page editor of the Salina Journal. You can write to him at P.O. Box 740, Salina, KS 67402, or via e-mail at gpyle@saljournal.com. Remembering what might have been It is hard to imagine a politician speaking out today the way Robert Kennedy once did fifi Wi ANTHONY LEWIS ^e're increasing our gross national product every year, building a tremendous amount of wealth," the politician said, but that was not enough for "a country of great generosity and great spirit. I think people want to make a contribution to others. In the last few years we've lost sight of that." Another time he said: "Someone wrote on the pyramids when they were being constructed, 'No one was angry enough to speak out.' I think people should be angry enough to speak out. I think there are unfairnesses in my own country and around the world, and I think one should try to do TlieNew York Times something about it." $ That was Robert Kennedy. It is hard to imagine a politician speaking that way today: promising no boon to the voters but challenging them to join in meeting the problems of America and the world. "Look back at where our government came from," he said — "the Greeks, with their idea of participation. Think of what Pericles said in his funeral oration, that we regard the individual who holds himself aloof from public affairs as being useless." He graduated from Harvard 50 years ago this week. Thirty years ago this week he was assassinated. In his 20 years of adult life — just 20 — he grew and changed as few of us do, least of all politicians. He started as the hard-boiled Senate investigator, the supposedly ruthless political strategist in his brother's presidential campaign. He ended as the man who spoke for P.O. Box 740, Salina, KS 67402 Most of your Journal readers get Salina Cable TV. Your program listings are primarily keyed to Salina Cable TV. It would seem to make sense to exercise a little editorial judgment and feature only programs which can be seen by the majority of readers/viewers — those available on Salina Cable TV. I know from experience that it is not a problem finding material for the cover about programs that are available to the majority of readers/viewers. — ROCKY ENTRIKEN Salina • Rocky Entriken is a former special sections editor for the Salina Journal. "Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago, 'to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.'" Robert Kennedy on the death of Martin Luther King Jr. the powerless and the abused, in Harlem and the Appalachians and Vietnam. Some thought it was President Kennedy's death that made him become sympathetic to the victims of injustice. But it was always there. He was a tenderhearted man who hid tenderness under a hard shell lest he be taken as weak. But then in so many ways he was not like other political leaders. He was internal, often silent, communicating his empathy without words. He was gregarious and lonely, forceful and vulnerable, melancholy and funny, especially about himself. This Sunday the Discovery Channel on cable television will show a three-part documentary based on Jack Newfield's book, "Robert F. Kennedy: A Memoir." It is a superb piece of work, bringing laughter and tears. Before he became attorney general, he said once, he had not thought about racial discrimination in this country. I asked him why he focused on it so forcefully after he was in the office. "There are injustices," he said, "and they are flagrant. And I have the power and responsibility to do something about them. So I intend to do it. It's quite simple." But of course it wasn't simple. Not everyone responds by committing himself when he sees DOONESBURY others experiencing cruelty; most turn away and remain uninvolved. He responded. "We don't have to agree with one another," he said. "This is a country of diversity. But there doesn't have to be the bitterness, there doesn't have to be the hatred, there doesn't have to be the distrust." When Dr.,Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, on April 4,1968, Kennedy was campaigning in Indiana for the Democratic presidential nomination. He went to a scheduled rally in Indianapolis, with a largely black audience that did not know the news. He told them. From memory, he quoted Aeschylus. Then he said: "So let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago, 'to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.'" There was a fateful quality in him, as if he knew the odds against making the world, in his words, a place of "compassion and love and peace." But he saw no alternative to trying. "I think you have one time around," he said. "I don't know what's going to be in existence in six months or a year or two years. You have to feel that there are all these problems, that you are here on earth to make a contribution of some kind." He went to South Africa in 1966, when the apartheid system was at its most oppressive. My wife, who was a South African student leader, speaks of the extraordinary impact his visit had. She was at the University of Cape Town when he said: "Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope. And crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression." • Anthony Lewis is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for The New York Times Op-Ed page, 229 West 43rd St, New York, NY 10036. By G.B. TRUDEAU OKAY, SO WHAT I'M HIRING ISTHATTHB HOUSE WASN'T H£& WHEN All NQBUTTHATSUm WRCHWASH&KAW LARKSPUR, tW SO IW5 THAT AFTERNOON SHAWM WHAT MATTSKS A HOUS& WAS JOHN DffNER ABOUT BRICKS RBSRStASSSHINGlfSANP SHSerfOCKAHPfWK^SUL WNflPONTTHINKSO/ I've GOT HALf AMINPNOW NOTTDSZLL TO YOU.'

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