Plane Truths: Will Our Communities Become Collateral Damage? 2018
Distributed by Bullfrog Films, PO Box 149, Oley, PA 19547; 800-543-FROG (3764)
Directed by Melissa Young and Mark Dworkin
DVD, color, 88 min.
Sociology, Health, Environment, Law, Military, Mental Health, Peace Studies, Social Justice, Pollution, Ecology
Date Entered: 08/02/2018Reviewed by Andrew Jenks, California State University, Long Beach
Yearly expenditures on defense in the United States have now reached nearly $700 billion, more than the defense budgets of all other countries combined and exceeding the total government outlays of many substantial countries. Much of that money, and the activities it funds, is beyond public scrutiny. When faced with criticism, the military, along with its supporters and contractors, argues that it should be beyond oversight because of the supposedly pressing demands of national security. This documentary shows how the opaque and secret activities of the military have had a corrosive impact on the environment, creating “sacrifice zones” of communities that have become, essentially, collateral damage of the US military-industrial complex. National security, in this case, may literally be to die for.
This short but powerful documentary discusses the encroachment of the Navy into the Pacific Northwest around the Olympic Peninsula and the San Juan Islands to the north of Seattle. A seemingly pristine and pure environment, frequented by hikers and nature lovers, the area has been invaded by the Navy, creating noise pollution at levels that can cause permanent hearing damage, contaminating wells with toxic wastes that require many residents to use bottled water for all their water needs, and devastating marine animals with the use of deafening sonars and live ammunition of tests for torpedoes and bombs.
Hidden in plain view, military installations have emerged like mushrooms after the proverbial rains across the United States. The activities may be limited primarily to areas behind barbed wired fences, but they have a negative impact on local communities, who have little power to control or regulate these activities. The result is to erode democratic controls at the local level in those areas that have become sacrifice zones for military activities. Ever-growing Navy installations in the Pacific Northwest, unlike private sector companies, are not subject to the EPA regulations, and the military personnel live in federal housing for which the federal government does not pay taxes.
It is hard to assess which is the more damaging impact: the health impacts caused by noise pollution and groundwater contamination, the devastation of animal communities, the erosion of local democratic controls, the economic cost of tourists driven away or farming operations losing their business. Said one resident: “It’s a sacrifice zone if people allow themselves to be sacrificed.” So far, no one seems to be able to stop the sacrifice.