The Muscatine County Iowa Mark twain saw in the 1850’s as he stood on the high banks overlooking the Mississippi river is a much different Muscatine, Iowa than what he would see today. Looking down at the town from the “Mark Twain overlook” historical site, you see a quaint little city but as you look closer you see the big industries that have moved in. Instead of seeing a sunset on the horizon you see smoke coming from Monsanto and its power plant. Instead of seeing local furniture making businesses, you see a huge HON office supply factory right down town. Muscatine has definitely been industrialized, and although these factories are creating jobs for the locals, the practices these companies are using seem like they’re doing more harm for the locals than good.
While in Iowa volunteering for the Bernie Sanders campaign, I had the opportunity to see this town up close when canvassing through neighborhoods. I couldn’t help but notice a strange smell over the course of the five days I was there, and after walking many miles and inhaling air that smelled overwhelming like dog food, I had to know what it was and why the locals weren’t complaining. After a quick google search I found articles about how many of the factories in Muscatine have been in trouble with the EPA and how Muscatine County has THE WORST quality air in all of Iowa. The Quad-City Times has even written about how the grain processing plant in Muscatine was fined 1.5 MILLION dollars for polluting the air (Liegois).The locals have adapted to the smell but they haven’t adjusted to the health side effects. With upper respiratory infections and asthma being prominent in those who have moved to Muscatine and later left, there is an obvious correlation between what I was smelling and the health of those in the city (Burke). While canvassing on the windier, smellier days I had felt so sick to my stomach I had to stop and go back to the hotel.
My only thoughts as I walked through these neighborhoods seeing children’s toy’s outside and hearing the laughter of children from the school nearby was about what kind of health problems these kids could or HAVE developed from living in these conditions. After observing the caucus at a local elementary school on Monday night, I saw what appeared to be a heavy fog surrounding the street lamps. Although the weather while I was in Iowa was very gloomy the thought of the heavily coal dependent factories nearby made it seem like what was going on there was more than just the weather. The thought of this adorable community suffering any longer made my purpose there volunteering for Bernie sanders all the more meaningful.
Even with tons of presidential nominees flocking to Iowa to try and secure any last minute votes, no one seemed to be talking about the obvious issue facing Muscatine. Everyone in the U.S. had their eyes on Iowa as the caucus results came in but no one talked about anything except the candidates. Even those candidates who DID talk about the environmental issues facing future generations, like Bernie Sanders did, that wasn’t the story being covered. None of the major news outlets had much to say about the candidate’s stances on the environment, they were just voicing their opinions on who won and who lost. In the end, Bernie won Muscatine County and I can’t help but believe a healthier, cleaner future is on the horizon for the people of Muscatine County.
Burke, Adam. “For Industrial Iowa Town, Air Quality Solution Is Elusive.” Midwest Energy News. 29 Mar. 2011. Web. 02 Feb. 2016.
Liegois, Jason. “GPC in Muscatine Assessed $1.5M Fine for Pollution.” The Quad-City Times. 2014. Web. 04 Feb. 2016.