by Marius Brusegard
Chuck Laszewski mentions the catchphrase “Environmental racism” in his article “The sociologists’ take on the environment”. This phrase means that people with less influence or wealth have to suffer from environmental hazards caused by landfills, hazardous waste dumps and dirty factories. Laszewski further claims that numerous reports have proved conclusively that environmentally hazardous businesses have been overwhelmingly established in poor or minority neighborhoods, hence the phrase “environmental racism”. Politicians were able to bring dirty factories etc. into these areas by claiming that it would increase the tax base and create jobs. Indeed jobs were created, but according to sociologist David Pellow, referred to by Laszewski, these dirty facilities were producing poor economic results, jobs hazardous to the workers, and a new source of toxic emissions in the neighborhood.
These types of environmental hazards have been placed in these areas most likely because of the knowledge about how environmentally damaging the hazards really are. I find it hard to believe that helping these poor areas grow economically was an important part of the siting process of these environmentally hazardous businesses. I find it likely to believe that the economic growth and increase of jobs for the respective communities were used solely as arguments to convince the people of these areas to accept having these environmentally hazardous businesses placed in their areas. This means that the influential and wealthy people are knowingly forcing the less fortunate people to live in an environment damaging for their health. Even if people wanted to move away from this new environment, most of them probably can’t afford it. After all, many of them are living in these areas because they can’t afford living anywhere else. If they were to move to another area within their price range, chances are that they would eventually have to move again for similar reasons.
Another aspect that I find disturbing is that by building these factories etc. in poor areas with lack of jobs, it makes the areas dependent on these factories. There have been some cases of this happening in my home country, Norway. Factories were built in small communities and these communities then experienced economic and social growth. Naturally, many people in these towns got jobs at the factories, and the population even grew because of people moving there for work. However, after several years, the market changed and there were either no more need for the factories, or they were relocated somewhere else more beneficial to the factory owners. This caused a lot of people to lose their jobs, and their lives were abruptly changed. People were forced to move in search for work, schools had to be shut down, and the formerly vivid towns had transformed into so-called “ghost towns”.
The fact that people do not want to have these hazardous factories in their own neighborhoods testifies how dangerous they are. In order to get rid of these problems, we would have to stop producing products that creates hazardous waste, and go over to using natural products as far as possible. However, this means that the human race would have to take some steps back from today’s modern society. But moving backwards does not seem to be something the human mind is set to do, even if this way of moving backwards could result in a healthier and longer lasting environment for the future.
- Where are environmental hazards and air pollution in Houston? Just find a low income minority neighborhood. (texashousers.net)
- Environmental Justice Ethics (Intergenerational Justice) (dripley91.wordpress.com)
- Fighting the Green Fight: How Erica Thames is Fighting for Environmental Justice (act.mtv.com)
- California agency is slow to protect public from toxic waste (sacbee.com)
- Hazardous Materials Signs Ensure Employee Safety (smartsign.com)
- The Invincible Enemy – spicing it up with environmental hazards (stuffershack.com)