Thor – The New Champion Against PFAS?

The story of a powerful chemical company is all too familiar to North Carolinians. 

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Krista Early
Advocate, Environment North Carolina

Author: Krista Early

Advocate, Environment North Carolina

Started on staff: 2018
B.S., The Ohio State University; MELP, Vermont Law School

Krista directs Environment North Carolina’s campaigns to protect the state’s waterways and drinking water. Krista lives in Raleigh, where she enjoys getting outdoors with her dog and enjoying what the city has to offer.

Over the weekend I had some time on my hands and I was surfing through Netflix. I am an avid binge watcher, so completing a full season of a new show in two days was no daunting feat for me. I was lucky enough to find a great show called Ragnarok. As you can probably gather from the title, it’s based around Norse culture but more specifically it focuses on a modernized version of Thor’s myth. 

This show stood out to me for many reasons: subject matter, soundtrack, special effects, etc. But surprisingly, the story ended up being extremely relevant to my own life.  I ended up drawing a few, eerily similar parallels to things I’ve witnessed within my career. A large theme, one could even say the main theme, is environmental destruction. It’s a story we have all heard before, the David and Goliath story. The little guy going up against the big guy. Or in this case, a small rural town called Edda attempting to live with constant pollution runoff from an undefined source. *SPOILERS* You can probably guess the culprit without me saying it, but eventually we find out that the pollution is coming from the only major industrial company that is based in this town. 

In Ragnarok, Jutul (the large industrial company) refuses to acknowledge their part in the destruction of the beautiful, if fictitious, natural areas surrounding the town. Jutul won’t be linked to the health crises that are happening around them, to the citizens, or their workers. This family owned company has such a hold on this town that they basically run it. Their pockets are deep and their leadership is powerful. They can make problems go away. Environmental activists are ignored. A main plot line in this show is the fact that real evidence of environmental contamination is ignored. Reports listing terrible, toxic chemicals in their drinking water, increased cases of cancers, the town’s impoverished quality of living– none of this leads back to Jutul. 

Obviously, there are different sides of this story. A point of discussion in this show is that progress can have casualties. Saxa, a prominent character, points out that when man discovered fire, some houses may have burned down, but that we didn’t go back to life without fire. Or how when the car was invented, car accidents happened, but that we didn’t go back to using horses and carriages. That’s a valid point. As a society, we thrive off of progress. What I would say in return is that there is a better way to achieve progress. It doesn’t have to be at the expense of vulnerable communities. 

North Carolina knows this story all too well. A powerful chemical company takes up residence in our state. Chemours makes its residency here sound like an improvement to our communities. They say it brings in money and creates jobs. However, in the end, Chemours is no different than Jutul. Chemours has been polluting our waters for at least a decade. We know that their plant in Bladen County has been dumping toxic chemicals called PFAS (polyfluoroalkyl substances) into the Cape Fear River for years. Our communities are being directly affected by these chemicals. PFAS have been linked to multiple health problems including impaired immune systems, fertility problems, and multiple types of cancer.  We have found PFAS in our drinking waters across the state. A recent report showed that parts of North Carolina have some of the highest concentration levels of PFAS in their drinking water compared to the rest of our nation. People have switched their water source to bottled water for drinking, cooking and brushing their teeth.  The communities close to the plant are not the only ones impacted. Our nation is so inundated with PFAS, that this chemical is being found in rainwater. The pollution of our waters is so out of hand that North Carolinians are suffering contamination from their own backyards. 

Ragnarok sets Thor up to be the hero of the show. He faces extreme adversity, to the point where no one believes him. Thor faces problems that environmental advocates face often enough. People will disagree with us, say that we are narrow-minded and don’t understand the reality of the whole situation. Thor needed to dig deep and fight for what he believed was right. Environmental advocates do this daily, but this skill isn’t unique to our job. Anyone can do this. All North Carolinians can do this. We are fighting an entire industry and their pollution. We are holding them accountable for their part in the contamination of our waters. We can make them take responsibility for their actions. 

Ragnarok has a cut and dry hero, but my question to you is:  Who will be our hero?

I believe that it can be all of us. I believe that we all can be more like Thor and be willing to fight to protect what is right – a clean environment for all. 

Krista Early
Advocate, Environment North Carolina

Author: Krista Early

Advocate, Environment North Carolina

Started on staff: 2018
B.S., The Ohio State University; MELP, Vermont Law School

Krista directs Environment North Carolina’s campaigns to protect the state’s waterways and drinking water. Krista lives in Raleigh, where she enjoys getting outdoors with her dog and enjoying what the city has to offer.