February 11, 2016

Law and Humanities, the Flint Water Crisis, and "An Enemy of the People"

Mae Kuykendall, Professor of Law at Michigan State University College of Law, has published an op-ed in the Detroit Free Press on the Flint water crisis, discussing some similarities between the involvement of government officials in the issue to the plot and characters of Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People. Says Professor Kuykendall in part,

The devastating water contamination in Flint calls to mind the acerbic play “Enemy of the People” by Henrik Ibsen, in which a doctor tries to warn the town that the new spa facilities, designed to attract tourists, were “nothing but a pest-house” because the water was noxious.

In Flint, too, a “damnable blunder” involving water pipes started a crisis of public health and recrimination. In both towns, a duty-driven doctor sought to expose the contaminated water. Dr. Stockmann, the doctor in the play, sent water samples from the spa to the state, and received a report that the water was poisonous. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the doctor in Michigan, performed her own analysis of the hospital records of children in Flint. She found that lead levels in Flint children’s blood had skyrocketed since, under financial duress, the source of Flint city water was changed from Lake Huron to the Flint River.

Provocative and worth reading. A link to the full essay is here.

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