Life and Death in a Maine Mill Town


A powerful story that resonates here in our world of paper mills.

Yet it’s almost impossible to draw a straight line from our mill to cancer. Someone leaves town. They get cancer. Some people never leave. They get cancer. Or vice versa. My grandmother smoked.. She didn’t get cancer. You work in a paper mill like my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, you get cancer. Some people do not. At least not yet. There are long delays between environmental exposures and cancer, too long to calculate, and each cancer comes with individual risk factors, symptoms, causes. If you think your town contains a cancer cluster, consider the criteria: clusters require a greater-than-expected number of cancers in a narrowly defined group, i.e., the people must have the same type of cancer, in a limited geographic area, over a limited period of time, and all these factors have factors, including the limitations of science itself. In addition, if several family members get cancer, it doesn’t count toward the cluster evidence you need. Ordinary cancers don’t count either. And it doesn’t appear the CDC analyzes how individual bodies respond to specific environmental factors. And even if a cancer cluster is found in your neighborhood, they may not be able to determine the exact cause or do anything about it. One in three people develop cancer over their lifetime, so maybe the question is, when will we get cancer?

2 Responses

  1. Thanks for posting. Western/modernist society is not “thriving” and appears to be headed for a “terrible death… in excruciating pain.” The symptoms are growing like a cancer all around us.

  2. This is amazing. This is a gift, not unlike Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. This is a must-read for current environmental studies’ students, environmental law students, and doctoral students hoping against hope to change our directions before we become our own black hole in the universe.

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