Where activist attitudes help

A reader called last Tuesday morning, clearly frustrated and looking to vent.

Just one "little chicken," as she put it - a citizen getting by on a fixed income - she was also part of a group tracking the cleanup of a Superfund site in Florida.

A company called Stauffer Management, she said (and a little digging confirmed) now handles the Tampa site, 40 acres drenched in chemicals from decades past.

The caller had an idea that good things might finally start happening. (Stauffer, I've since learned, plans to try "bio-remediation," letting loose a type of bacteria said to snack on DDT, turning it into water and carbon dioxide.)

Her confusion was about where to assign credit for any progress - as well as heaps of blame for what she called the health effects of the pollution, and other mistakes that she and her group are charging.

She named some of the big chemical companies involved, and then asked how certain key mergers, "demergers," and subsidiary spinoffs affected liability.

The questions pointed up the murkiness surrounding corporate behavior and accountability.

And if answers are tough to pin down in our nation of laws, they're even more elusive in countries where political strife can keep rights-protecting laws from being made, let alone enforced.

Cases of big Western companies in hot water over their environmental messes abroad have been talked about for years.

Today's lead story looks at early progress in erasing another sometime byproduct of corporate operations abroad: exploitation. More companies are trying to elevate the treatment of local workers at their foreign facilities.

Thank other "little chickens," whose squawks keep pressure on.

Reach us at work@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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