Kent fails as environmentalist

by Sam Hohneke

In “Life on the Mississippi,” Mark Twain said he would remember Muscatine for its sunsets, for he “had never seen any, on either side of the ocean, that equaled them.”

If Mr. Twain were to look out over the Mississippi from the park that bears his name he would surely weep.

Standing in this park at the top of a hill, looking out over the numerous smokestacks that are belching massive clouds of pollution into the air, one feels quite like the Lorax observing the sorry state of what had become of his home.

The stench of the city alone is enough to make you cry.

Various corporations within Muscatine city limits contribute to some of the highest air particulate levels in the state. Muscatine Power and Water, Monsanto and Grain Processing Corporation (GPC) are the greatest contributors to these high levels, according to the Star-Tribune.

GPC is owned by Muscatine Food Corporation. The chairman of the board of directors and CEO of Muscatine Food Corporation is Gage Kent, so he controls the direction and day-to-day operations of the company.

However that is not the only board that Mr. Kent has a seat on. He is also a trustee for our very own Simpson College.

It was his $4 million donation that allowed this college to move forward on its plans to construct a new student center and earned him the right to have his name placed on the building for posterity.

The Muscatine Journal reported last year that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) executed a search warrant that resulted in the issuance of four citations, three of which had to do with air quality violations.

A press release from the Iowa Attorney General’s office shows that this is not an unprecedented action, as GPC was forced to pay more than $500,000 in fines in 2006 for, you guessed it, air pollution violations.

The Journal also reported that Kent recently had invested $100 million into his company to reduce emissions. However, this decision was only made after the most recent citations were issued.

A picture of a child apologizing for being caught with his hand in the cookie jar, while only really being sorry that he did not make off with a delicious pollution cookie, keeps popping up in my head.

The negative results of the air pollution are more than just eyesores and bad smells. The particulate matter levels in Muscatine are among the highest in the state.

These particles are capable of entering the lungs and can leave one sick. After moving to Muscatine, my asthma became severe enough that I had to be hospitalized and put on daily medication to regulate it.

Since moving away, this medication has no longer been necessary.

I cannot say how many upper respiratory infections I have had. I believe firmly that these are a result of the poor air quality of Muscatine, which Gage Kent has contributed to.

Now the new centerpiece of Simpson College is to be named in his honor. In the midst of going green, Simpson College will have the shining gem in its crown named after one of the worst polluters in the state.

Gage Kent cares little for the environment or the health of my community. And now we will put him alongside the likes of Vice President Henry Wallace and George Washington Carver.

Just because he can throw some money around and give us what we want, does not mean that we should not question where this money comes from and ask ourselves whether it is worth it.

What is the real cost of the Kent Campus Center?

Sam is a senior German and Political Science major.