Ralph Nader spoke at Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina on October 8, 2009 on environmentalism, civic responsibility and his own work.
Stacy Dyer, writing for the Presbyterian College website, reports:
Nader led off his talk by discussing the importance of being involved in civic pursuits. He pointed out that while everyone in the crowded Belk Auditorium has likely been to a shopping mall, McDonald’s, or Wal-Mart, not many have been to a city or town council meeting.
“We don’t get enough civic experience,” Nader said, “and without enough civic experience, democracy doesn’t work.”
Nader shared his story of how be became interested in automobile safety, which began his career as America’s foremost consumer advocate. He said that when he was in college in the ‘50’s, he knew many people who were either killed or seriously injured in automobile accidents. In his third year at Harvard Law School, he wrote a paper on the subject that included recommendations. The paper later eventually became the 1965 book Unsafe At Any Speed, which led to automobile safety laws and regulations.
Nader, who has also made a career addressing environmental issues, said the best way to define pollution is that it’s a form of violence.
“It’s a silent, cumulative form of violence,” he said. “Whether it’s beryllium, lead, arsenic, sulfurs, whatever. It attacks the health of human beings. It damages the genetic inheritance of the human being. And it contaminates property. It makes air, water, and soil less safe in the biosphere.”
Nader said it is interesting to study what forms of violence people are most concerned about.
“Other forms,” he said, “produce far more deaths, injuries, or disease, even though both are preventable.”
For example, the 9/11 terrorist attacks killed 3100 people. However, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration says that this year 58,000 Americans will die from work-related disease and trauma, 65,000 from air pollution, 100,000 from incompetence medical negligence in hospitals, and 45,000 because they can’t afford health insurance to get treatment, according to Nader.
“They get little media attention, compared to a terrorist attack,” he said. “But why, if they’re both preventable? Why, if everyone who dies is innocent?”
In the 2000 Presidential election, Nader received just over 20,279 South Carolina votes as the United Citizens Party candidate. He received 5,520 votes in 2004 and 5,053 SC votes in 2008 running as an independent petition party candidate.