The Carcinogenic Murder of Audrey Moore

I met Audrey Moore in April 2014. She and a few other Oregon environmentalists invited me to talk about my book, “Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA” (Bloomsbury Press, 2014, paper 2015).

The reason why these Oregonians wanted to hear me talk about regulation and the Environmental Protection Agency is simple. They read “Poison Spring” and found its message spoke to their needs. They appreciated my clearing the confusion about regulation. Who regulates whom? Is the government regulating the industry or the industry the government?

Oregonians understood why the government has been indifferent to their plight. My book confirmed their uneasiness that their government was a hostage of the timber companies. They have been fearful of being sprayed by hazardous and, in many instances, cancer-causing chemicals.

I fully appreciate their fear. Timber companies and large farmers are addicted to powerful and harm-causing poisons. They spray these toxins primarily for political reasons, including the control of their vast land properties. But these biocides fly and drop all over the natural world. Not only are these chemicals deleterious to nature; they cause cancer and numerous other maladies to humans.

How, one may reasonably ask, can these companies and farmers cause so much harm? Where’s the government? I explained in my talks, and I documented in “Poison Spring,” that the industry has captured the government. So, in Oregon, the timber companies go on with their calendar spraying of their “private” forests. They know that both state and federal governments are on their side.

Audrey Moore decided to fight back. She educated herself about the weapons timber companies use: weed killers and insect poisons. She spoke to other concerned Oregonians and government officials. She attended countless meetings only to discover the government used delays, complex texts, scientists and regulations to obfuscate and cover up the sprayings of the timber industry.

So Audrey correctly figured out the laws are designed to protect the large owners of private property. In fact, America’s legal system is a subsidiary of moneyed interests. That’s why even “environmental” lawyers fail to represent the environment (rivers, creeks, lakes, seas, mountains, forests, land). They struggle with details and minor reforms that fail to address the bias of the laws and the courts. Besides, polluters have their fingers all over the drafting of our environmental laws. And the same polluters have been funding the legislators responsible for US environmental legislation. This reality also cripples EPA from being APA.

So Aubrey tried to convince the people of the Illinois Valley of Josephine County to institute new laws forbidding the dangerous and immoral spraying of people and nature by timber companies. She got in touch with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit group of lawyers rewriting the country’s laws. With their help, Audrey Mooremobilized “the country’s first Freedom from Pesticides Bill of Rights campaign.”

Audrey described the sprayings of timber companies as crimes against the natural world and society. After all, what is the poisoning of creeks, rivers and people, if not acrime? Audrey Moore was a victim of those crimes. She got cancer. Her six-acre home was in the woods of Josephine County in the spraying path of timber companies. She suspected her drinking water was poisoned. She died of cancer in mid-April 2015.

Dana Allen, a friend of Audrey Moore, sent me a message in which she spoke about Audrey Moore. Allen said Audrey did more than make a difference in inspiring people:

“[Audrey Moore] was a force of nature. Every wound to nature was a wound to her because she was of it; in it; a part of the whole of it. She set the example for all of us of how fierce and enduring we must all be to save the things we love. And I promised her that her work would go on through all of us that have engaged in this fight to save the living earth by overturning the existing system that is killing all life as we know it.”

“Just so you know,” she said to me, “I am going to be putting together a group in Alsea [Oregon] that will be doing an ordinance similar to the one that Audrey did in Josephine [County] to ban all aerial spraying on forestry and ag lands and the spraying of pesticides on public lands (schools, parks, roadsides, etc) here in Benton County. Another similar ordinance is being written in Lincoln County where Carol van Strum lives and is almost ready to be submitted. Another is being prepared in Lane County (Cottage Grove) with Eron [King]’s group. Hopefully, all of these will make it to the ballot in 2016. All of this work and the good that will come of it is because of Audrey. She brought you to Oregon and you really helped to open our eyes too about what Carol [van Strum] calls a genocide here in Oregon. You too have now become part of this circle that Audrey inspired.”

Like Audrey Moore, Eron King and Carol van Strum try to defend the environment and society of Oregon from hazardous chemicals and irresponsible timber company abuses.

Dana Allen is right. Audrey Moore blazed a path for democracy and a healthier natural world. Let’s honor her by continuing her struggle.

Start banning cancer-causing chemicals. Like climate change, cancer is largely anthropogenic. Pollute the air, water and food and you are embraced by cancer. The victim of cancer is a victim of crimes against all of us.Audrey went further. She told me cancer is murder.

It’s in our power to live in a cancer-free world. Carcinogenic murder deserves extinction.