A common thread of resistance and environmental racism links Flint, Michigan, Standing Rock Reservation, North Dakota, and Waller County, Texas, where residents are fighting, respectively, state negligence, corporate encroachment, and an unwanted landfill.
Phillip Luke Sintierre writes on the proposed landfill in Waller County for the African American Intellectual History Society:
Opposition to Green Group’s landfill proposal on the grounds of environmental racism relates to the work of environmental justice activist Benjamin Chavis, who defines environmental racism as “the deliberate targeting of people-of-color communities for hazardous waste facilities, such as landfills and incinerators, and the siting of polluting industries. [Environmental racism] is racial discrimination in the official sanctioning of the life-threatening presence of poisons and pollutants in communities of color.” —Phillip Luke Sintierre, December 18, 2016
For the LA Times, Ivan Perry reports on a town in Alabama where residents have faced an eight-year battle with state officials after a sulfur compound leaked into their soil and groundwater.
Residents of Bismarck, ND, were able to refuse the Dakota Access Pipeline but the residents of Standing Rock Reservation still have to warily eye pipeline construction lights and equipment. Last year, Porter Ranch, CA, suffered a methane leak and the state responded by evacuating residents until the leak had been plugged. Residents of Eight Mile, AL, have received no comparable consideration:
‘Our sense of smell is acutely sensitive to mercaptans,’ Jackson said. ‘They’re irritants. They irritate our eyes. They’re designed to smell bad, to be unpleasant.’
Dr. Jeffrey Nordella, an urgent care physician in Porter Ranch, said he has been conducting his own research on mercaptan’s health effects since the Aliso Canyon leak.
‘Mercaptan is toxic to the human body,’ Nordella said. ‘The question is exposure — how much and for how long?’ … The years of troubles in Eight Mile have led some residents to pack up and move. But most of the 3,000 residents don’t have the resources to leave.” —Ivan Perry, October 15, 2016
In the Detroit Free Press, Ryan Garza leads a multi-media appeal on behalf of Flint, Michigan, whose residents still don’t have drinkable tap water and just rebuffed the state’s attempt to stop delivering bottled water.
Don’t forget about Flint. It’s a sentiment we’ve heard since the national media and presidential campaigns swept through this city in crisis. As we approach 2017, the three-year anniversary of the start of Flint’s water crisis, it bears repeating.
Don’t forget what the people of Flint must do for clean water. Many are still using cases of bottled water to cook with, bathe in and drink.” —Ryan Garza, December 17, 2016
Finally, climate communicator Alex Steffen explores key influences on carbon policy, the climate change denial that will likely be a major part of the next US federal administration, and corporate construction of new carbon-fuel infrastructure like the Dakota Access Pipeline. There’s a gap, Steffen writes, between how much items like oil and beachfront property are worth today and how sustainable they are in the long-run. He calls this gap “the carbon bubble.”
If we can’t burn oil, it’s not worth very much. If we can’t defend coastal real estate from rising seas (or even insure it, for that matter), it’s not worth very much. If the industrial process a company owns exposes them to future climate litigation, it’s not worth very much. The value of those assets is going to plummet, inevitably… and likely, soon...
For high-carbon industries to continue to be attractive investments, then, they must spin a tale of future growth. They must make potential investors believe that even if there is a Carbon Bubble, it is decades away from popping — that their high profits today will continue for the foreseeable future, so their stock is worth buying.” —Alex Steffen, December 15, 2016
Researchers Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway have written extensively about how public campaigns of science denial have worked, not just on climate change but also on tobacco, DDT, and acid rain. Read or watch their work and note how corporations and their think tank partners are using the same playbook on environmental and climate issues today.