Talkin' Rocks

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Serpentine, Science, and the politics of fear

Some of you may have been following the ongoing issue in California over SB 624, the bill to remove Serpentine as the state rock of California. For those of you who haven’t heard the story, State Sen. Gloria Romero (D, Los Angeles) introduced this legislation, presumably at the behest of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO). They believe that since the rock serpentine sometimes contains the asbestiform mineral Chrysotile, that it is dangerous and that “California should not designate a rock known to be toxic to the health of its residents as the state’s official rock.”

Since this bill was introduced, MANY people have commented in the print and electronic media about it. The overwhelming sentiment from the scientific community is that the basic premises of the ADAO and Sen. Romero are just plain WRONG scientifically, and there is no reason to remove serpentine as California’s state rock.

Now, on other venues I have made my feelings known, suffice it to say that when non-scientists attempt to write legislation with scientific verbiage, what results is frequently what the Marines call a ‘clusterf***’ and this is exactly what happened in this case. The bill, and the ensuing defenses of it by Sen. Romero and the ADOA are so rife with inaccuracies as to be laughable. For more detail on this, I direct you to a few good sources:

So why am I blogging about this? Not because I want to champion the cause of serpentine, others (who actually live in California) are doing a fine job of that. I am following this saga because I am interested in the outcome. The bottom line is that Sen. Romero and the ADAO are quite simply fearmongers, and I’m interested in seeing if their tactics, playing on people’s emotions and fear, will triumph over overwhelming scientific facts in this case. What’s really interesting is that, despite many, many people contacting her, Sen. Romero quite simply refuses to even respond to the science and the scientific community. They just keep repeating the words asbestos and cancer, and are apparently hoping that by appealing to people’s basest fears, they will win the day.

By repeatedly mouthing inaccuracies and flat-out lies, and steadfastly refusing to even listen to anyone opposing her position, Sen. Romero has joined my long list of politicians who make me shake my head and say “Who VOTED for that idiot?”

I’ll close with an interesting side-note; those (few) who have followed my previous posts (“Origins”) may remember a picture of a piece of Jade (Nephrite) which I collected in my younger days at Jade Cove, in the Los Padres National Forest near Big Sur. Much of this area has serpentine for its bedrock, and the Jade itself forms in veins in serpentine, and breaks off and washes up on the beach. I suppose that, according to the ‘reasoning’ of Sen. Romero and the ADAO, I should be worried about contracting Mesothelioma due to the time I spent there collecting, not to mention having this “toxic” mineral in my house…..


August 8, 2010 - Posted by | Rock and Mineral collecting, Uncategorized | , , , , , ,

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