Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Environmental Punishment in Israel
Yesterday the Knesset passed a new law called "The Polluter Pays" with severe criminal and economic paragraphs. Among them, the Authority can calculate the profits made by the polluter and tax him the sum and interests. The Authority can also calculate the cost of repairing the damage done, and take that money from the polluter. It seems very nice, but it means a further step in terrorizing the unfortunate industrialists that make their living manufacturing some physical product. The issue is formulated in quasi-religious terms. Society will spend more time and effort fighting those defilers of Mother Earth's purity, specially those who profit by defiling Earth, all in a desperate search for feeling good about oneself and living in harmony with Nature.
Since I work day and night with these environmental issues, I have developed a sense that the State's efforts are basically irrational and punitive. The State, that wields the power to punish, is passive, that is, the environmental inspectors are not motivated to persecute people out there, on the contrary, they would best like never to leave their airconditioned offices. If left to themselves, they would spend all their time talking and intriguing among themselves, attending important meetings, in seminaries and presenting papers in congresses sited far away. Only the pressure from the environmental fanatics makes them to start to move, but then, once the issue is caught by the legal machinery and the lawyers, there is no escape. The terms of the trials is esoteric to the point of religion. For example, the State accuses a Criminal Polluter that for half an hour the vapour taken from the ventilator of his lab had a concentration of 1 PPB of something "bad", while the permitted limit is 0.6 PPB. We are talking about unmeasurable differences, and things without consequences. Yet the polluter is a criminal and will be punished. Like the one that sent concentrated seawater back to the sea.
The new method that the State has developed is the self reporting requirement. They force the suspect to measure and report everything, and they search for contradictions and errors in the reports, and they present the case to the judge on the basis of documents. Last week I made a design and the draughtsman made a mistake, writing "salt water line" where it was "industrial wastewater line". The Ministry knew it was a mistake (it is so obvious) and they know the factory itself so there was no doubt that the line is not saltwater but wastewater, that the word it a draughtman's mistake. But they added the drawing to their file presented to the Judge, as another document against the factory - "Let the bastards explain to the Judge (who is a lawyer and has no idea of what is the issue) that what they said was not what they meant to say". The bureaucrats laughed at me: "What do you want from us? That we just passed on your own presentation to the Judge?". Hopefully the Ministry is feeling large today and is allowing me to correct the mistake.
What is behind this legislation? I think it is fear. The public has developed a sense of fear of unseen things lurking around them, bad polluted spirits that cause disease and infertility and death. They want to combat those evil things by purifying the environment, and fighting those evil polluters of the universe. If the good side wins and the pollution is eliminated, we will all be healthy and young and live forever. The whole thing reminds me of King Edippos, a Greek drama. The Prophet identified the cause of the pollution that was causing the terrible epidemy killing the town's citizens, and its was its king Edippos born of impure tabu sex, and prescribed the remedies to purify the defiled Earth. A set of ceremonies and political changes were to take place to stop people dying.
Just like Israel 2008, see Law "The Polluter Pays".