Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Environmental Inequality Formation

The purpose of this article is to discuss the conceptual, theoretical and methodological issues in existing research on environmental justice and environmental inequalities. Environmental racism can be defined as "the unequal protection against toxic and hazardous waste exposure and the systematic exclusion of people of color from decisions affecting their communities" (p. 582). This is just one example of environmental injustice which occurs when a particular social group is burdened with environmental hazards. Environmental justice refers to "cultural norms and values, rules, regulations, behaviors, policies, and decisions to support sustainable communities where people can interact with confidence that the environment is safe, nurturing, and productive" (p. 582). This usually doesn't happen until people realize their highest potential. Environmental inequality addresses more structural questions that focus on social inequality and environmental burdens.
A case study involves Patricia James, an African American woman who worked in a recycling plant named Waste Management Inc (WMI), in Chicago. She as well as other workers had been accidentally poked with hypodermic needles, had to handle medical waste and were sprayed with batter acid, paint thinner, and were exposed to human and animal bodies. The workers were basically forced to choose between their dangerous jobs and their health.

In 1995, the city decided to create a large scale recycling program called "Blue Bag." Illinois required that Chicago have a plan to achieve a 25% recycling rate by 1996. All low-density dwellings had to have regular recycling services as well.

A case was also considered ruling that Chicago's incinerator ash constituted a lot of hazardous waste. The ash was buried in landfills which is not proper disposal. This waste was also hazardous to human health. Eventually, several supporters managed to successfully close the city's main incinerator. The city also wanted to add a new recycling system for the availability of a corporate partner. Industry had stepped in to support recycling. The WMI, however, had been accused of dirty deeds and have been had many lawsuits charging bribery, death threats, and illegal dumping.

Another major reason for the program was for creating jobs within the community. Neighboring communities have experienced decentralization and White flight, leaving the urban core. It was thought recycling would solve the landfill problem, please the environmental community, provide jobs, and hope that the depressed areas of the city would recover.

But we have to ask...how are these environmental inequalities and environmental racism produced? It occurs when the poor are dumped on or exposed to hazards because they are less powerful than large corporations and the state itself. With the Environmental Inequality Formation (EIF), the environmental inequality process can be better understood. It is important to redefine environmental inequality as a sociohistorical process. The need to understand environmental inequality involves multiple stakeholder groups with contradictory and shifting interests is vital as well. Thirdly, viewing the ecology of hazardous production and consumption through life-cycle analysis rather than focusing on one location or site could answer many questions. Some researchers are studying how government officials are making decisions about toxic exposure to residential and worker populations. Others focus on the workers experiences.

How are environmental inequalities produced? Resources become distributed unevenly. These relationships are constituted through a process of continuous change that involves negotiation and problems among stakeholders. Resistance to environmental hazards can take part in shaping environmental inequalities. Many conflicts have shifted from pollution problems to remedies is risk reduction measures (p.590). We need to know how these problems emerge and vary in different spaces. The problems evolve as people change locations. For example, WMI's hazards shifted from incinerator's emissions to the dangers of a recycling center replacing it.

Sewage and waste are often concentrated in areas where the working poor are housed. These people also typically work dangerous jobs. It is important to understand that since the dawn of human history environmental inequality has been with us--not with toxic waste after WWII.

Environmental inequality also affects stakeholders. Environmentalists want to reduce pollution, create jobs, but forget about the workers. What about their health? Many work in conditions with poor air quality and have been injured with battery acid. With no organized labor group, people were not allowed to take a day off even if a family member had passed.

Once newspapers covered this story, chaos began for the company. They were fined over $100,000 and promised they would make significant changes. Once workers started refusing to touch hazardous materials, workers shaped environmental inequality when work conditions changed.

Environmental inequality also needs development of life-cycle analysis. This requires scholars to examine the full costs and benefits of production and consumption. We seem to be focused on pollution rather than on resource extraction and consumption. People and ecosystems are affected in several ways. We can examine the socioenvironmental impacts as natural resources that are extracted, processed into commodities through production, distributed, consumed, and disposed. However, we've only focused on disposal. Through life-cycle analysis we can link emissions from cars, for example. Environmental hazards add new and disturbing dimensions to the limited discourse around both health care and the solid waste crisis in our country.

Environmental Inequality Formation

The author, David Pellow, in this article makes the argument that more is needed when analyzing how environmental injustice comes about. He notes that Environmental racism and environmental justice are used interchangeably and should not be. Environmental racism (ER) is a form of environmental injustice (EI or EJ). ER is more about problem identification and EJ is more problem solving.
He says that there are major perspectives left out of EJ research that are crucial to really grapsing the situations. These persectives being the process of history, role of multistakeholder relationships and a life-cycle approach. In this article he uses a case study of Chicago's waste management to help understand the importance of these perspectives.
The case study deals with WMI, a waste management company that operates in Chicago. An environmental movement called WASTE wanted the incinerator that WMI operated to close down due to the hazards and health concerns this facility created. They were sucessful in closing it down, which facilitated the need for a new recylcing program. An Interesting note is that these environmentalists were the same people who actually for the building of an incinerator back in the early 70's when it seemed like a viable plan. A "Blue Bag" Program was then developed. The program was adopted with the praise that it would create new jobs and foster healthy environmental practices. Chicago was in a heavy state of decline in jobs, having lost 250,000 since 1947. This program really only said it would supply about 400 jobs, so it is funny to think it is a real problem solver. Another apspect to look at is that WMI was very much disliked by environmentalists because of its ownership of incinerators, landfills and toxic waste facilities, but now these people are on board with them. It becomes jobs Vs. The environment. These jobs, in addition to being few in number is comparison to the actual number lost in recent years, are really quite shitty jobs. They are hazardous and people soon start resisting the poor conditions of it. The people whom are hired by this company are local working class. So by and large, the environmental movement actually is reproducing inequality by supporting this company and the program.

The author tells that in cases like these the 3 perspectives are needed for analysis instead of what is usually done, which is to focus mainly on the unequal outcomes of environmental inequality instead of the reasons behind it. The majority focus is on who has power and who doesnt. He calls it the perpetrator-victim model. As we have learned throught our class, these simplistic explanations just dont cut it.
He first says researchers need to look at cases like this as a socio-historical process involving multiple groups with competing interests and in more than just one location. Inequality is formed when one group is able to mobilize the desired resource(s) better than the other. The historical process also includes the shifting of alligiences. Like with WMI, the environmentalists who were once for the incinerator eventually turned the other way when the working class started protesting the harsh conditions. Kind of a jobs vs. nature vs. labor idea. Depending on the times, conditions and circumstances, the people seem to go with what seems most relative at the time.

The second perspective the author looks at is the multiple stakeholders view. The idea that there are usually many different groups fighting for the desired resource. Environmental Inequality Formation goes beyong simple dualistic models. What happened with WMI is that two stakeholders collaborated (environmentalists, the state, and the neighborhood) and got their program into place. But in the end labor got the short end of the stick. Not much was taken into consideration when it came to the working conditions of this place. But, once the resistance started, allegiences shifted again, which lead to fines to the company for labor violations.

Lastly, the author talks about Life-cycle analysis. He says it is a crucial matter for research because it requires looking at full cost and benefit of production and consumption. In most research this gets neglected and instead just the end product, which is pollution, is looked at. The Life-cycle appoach is important because it looks at the full process of production and consumtion, from raw materials to pollution. All in all, we are affected by this at every point of the cycle. It also allows to look at things more globally. The way it fits in with the case study, as the author says, is that even if the working conditions in the new recylcing plant were decent, the raw matierials they are recycling probably came from somewhere where a form of ineqality is being practiced. Another way to look at this would be to think of someone who says they are going green by buying an electric car. It seems like a "green" thing to do, but the car batteries are made out of really toxic shit. The process to make them is toxic and they probably end up sitting in a landfill leaking toxic stuff into the environment. Also, the raw materials to make the car and it's parts probably came from somewhere where there is some form of environental injustice. So, to sum it up, about the only way to really be "green" is to live in a home you made yourself, eating food you grow yourself and survive on the fruits of your own labor. Damn hard if you ask me.
So, all in all, the author is advocating the use of these deeper research methods to find the true roots of environmental injustice and not just rely on simplistic methods that only concentrate on the end result. Sorry for the long post.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Environmental Inequalities

Szasz and Meuser provided a literature review of the research developed to address connections between the socioeconomic class of communities and their proximity to facilities that treat, store or dispose of hazardous waste. The review also addressed the connections of the historical aspects in that may connect the environmental inequalities to social inequalities.
One study that was conducted using demographics of communities that were in close proximity to large commercial waste landfills. Another used zips codes to compare pollution in communities that contained TSDFs and those that did not. Although these reports showed that many for the communities identified in the studies may have had a higher number of minorities it was not conclusive in identifying that this was an act of environmental racism. Early studies were conducted that took a socioeconomic perspective which identified that in general poorer neighborhoods (which usually had higher populations of minorities) had higher concentration pollution in the air. These studies showed that those who lived in urban areas, which included higher populations of African Americans; were more likely to be exposed to higher levels of pollution. This connected exposure to pollutions not a race issue but social class.

More recently studies focused on quantitative/geographic analysis of two kinds of facilities; such as sold waste sites, hazardous waste sites, TSDF’s and/or pollutants emitted by operating plants. Many of these sites, approx 1000 are listed on a Superfund’s National Priorities List but this list only identifies sites that are considered to by a serious threat. These studies showed that there continues to be a connection to the economic class and the exposure to pollutants. In looking at the studies statistically, there is a higher count of minorities in poorer neighborhoods however this does not conclusively prove that this is a race issue.

All of these studies have several different variables that could be applied which limited their weight. When looking at the aspects as to when, why and where industries are established then we can begin to get a general understanding of the evolution of the neighborhoods that surround the sites and plants. Sites are picked for various reasons from the access to transportation lines and sources of raw materials but also reasons that are seen as targeting that particular population including economic depression which creates a willingness to accept the hazards for employment and prospects of stabilization (109). The samples of the population that were studies was noted to exclude the rich or those that incomes were $150,000 or higher. Is this because they have the resources to ensure their exposure to pollution is limited or that it furthers the positions of the poor in political projects and class struggles. To acknowledge this would be admitting that there is a class continues to be the great divider in the U.S.

I think that this article supports the necessity to look at the historical pieces of environment issues. It also strengths the idea that addressing environmental issues as a social injustices and class struggles will get more movements involved.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Environmental inequality has been the focus of many recent studies. However its nature is very complex, beginning earlier in the 1970s with a small group of people looking for a relationship between economic status to greater exposure to polluted air. Later in the 1970s there was an issue of creating a landfill in Warren county of North Carolina. There were protests and actions that caused some people to be arrested. Here environmental inequality began to play a part in civil rights and a new movement.

From here, three important studies influenced the outlook on environmental inequality. First the GAO examined some communities near landfills in some of the southeastern states, finding that most of the people were African American. Then the United Church of Christ compared zip codes of places located near landfills and or some type of treatment facility to those that didn't and found that there was a significant minority population in the areas with the landfills etc. The studies indicated that race has been a big factor in where some of the waste treatment facilities have been placed.

The 1990s included the Michigan conference, which was a fusion of researchers and activists looking at the issues of environmental hazard and race. Also, Mohai and Bryant did a review of 15 studies that all said that where race existed there was pollution. This time period included a boom of environmental studies focusing a lot on waste sites and pollutants emitted by plants.

The Anderton studies were then used by businessmen to battle environmental racism. By reexamining the earlier zip code study, Anderton was able to show that there wasn't a correlation between areas with landfills and minorities. In 1986 there was a push for the community right to know what community members were coming into contact with. There were also TRI studies that requires some waste facilities to post all the pollutants they were putting out. Unfortunately, not all companies were required to participate and info could easily be skewed due to difficulties in measuring pollution. The weather is unpredictable and can cause pollution to exist in different areas than anticipated, making it difficult to measure in the first place.

One major debate is whether or not the people affected greatly by pollutants are mostly minorities or people of lower economic status. These classifications are not always separate, so how does one performing a study take this into account. Some things to consider are whether or not a waste site was in an area before the people. If so, the land and housing around a polluted area would be cheaper and therefore more readily accessible by poorer people. Also, if the poor were living in an area first, would a company choose to put a waste facility in their area assuming that people don't have the financial capabilities or education to fight it. What are the motivations if any? Unfortunately, the issue of environmental injustice and racism is only looked at in one place in time. The history of an area, the geography, and race relations all play into this complex issue.

I felt that this article lacked information concerning how, based on historical political and economic reasons, an inordinate percentage of lower income people also happen to be ethnic minorities. I think that going into more detail about this issue would perhaps show that regardless of which side of the argument you take (only targeted at minorities vs only low-income people) a lot of the same people are being harmed by the waste facilities and plant pollutants. The fact that people are being harmed needs to be the bigger focus

Evniornmental Inequalities

The main points of this article seemed some what shocking to me when I first read them but when you actually take time to think about it, there is a lot of truth in the facts that poorer areas tend to be the dumping sites of society and very often these poor areas are the most highly polluted. Throughout the entire article I seem to keep seeing the same thing; most landfills and industrialized areas are in African-American communities. There are however some instances where this does not hold true and the most affected are the poor, regardless of race.
Environmental racism is not your typical racism like in 1960s. It deals more with qualities such as demographics (mean income, employment rate, cost of living, ...). It is true that African-American tend to live in the poorer areas along beside other minorities but there is a valid reason for this and it happened after WWII. "White Flight" describes how white, economically sound, individuals moved from the cities to the suburbs. This in turn took most of the money out of the neighborhoods and the cities began to degrade and become less desirable. This mostly happened in the regions of the East and Midwest where industry was high. In this region race typically is not the deciding factor or racism. In Boston and Chicago some of the most effected were the white blue-collared workers; a study in California showed that race was not a significant statistic. In the south the country tends to have the poorer population, which I guess could be said about anywhere. These areas tend to be perfect dumping sited for societies garbage and hazardous waste because most of the people are uneducated or uninterested in what is happening around then. This was not the case in Warren County, North Carolina (one of the poorest places in the USA). The people of the community were able to stand up and fight together and put a stop to dumping hazardous waste in their area.

The most shocking thing about the article was when they were talking about TRI or Toxic Release Inventory from industrial companies. The shocking part is that it is not a mandatory thing to do and only a fraction of the facilities release or produce them. The fact that emissions are self-reporting is mind blowing because you think the government would want to kep tabs on stuff like this. The thing about TRI facilities is that they are primarily located in Hispanic/Latino areas, another group that has seen severe discrimination. There are two primary ways TRI facilities are located. The first one is reasons other than demographics. This has to deal primarily with industrial areas which are close to raw materials and other processing areas. Plants are placed in these areas if there are few or no people, it is an industrial zoned region, and rational location. The second way they locate facilities is reasons exactly because of demographics. This includes areas such as economically depressed communities, people have less political power, and racial discrimination. It seems to me the facilities are placed based on the first reason 'other than demographics'.

All in all this seemed to be a good article and was very informative. It is sad that the most of the data in the studies showed a prejudice toward the African-American and Hispanic/Latin social groups, but this is the way society set it up. The poor people often have to move to less desirable areas which are cheaper to live and closer to work (industries) while the richer 'white man' lives outside in the suburbs. There is an effect though when you move from the poor city to the rich suburbs then back to the poor country; it all seems to go around in a circle. I think the article should stress more how new studies in demographics show that the African-American and Hispanic/Latino are not the targeted groups, the poor are. The reason the poor are picked on the most is because they are often uneducated and lack the social power to make a stand.

Environmental Inequalities

Szasz and Meuser’s article “Environmental Inequalities: Literature Review and Proposals for New Directions in Research and Theory” discusses the issue of “environmental racism” and inequalities, the relationship between the resulting movement and research, and some ignored issues within the environmental inequality problem. The article begins with the building of a hazardous waste landfill in Warren County, NC in 1978 that receive huge amounts of industrial waste. Warren happened to be the poorest county in North Carolina, and was 65% African-American. Its citizens gathered together to try to defeat this proposed landfill, and the opposition became quite violent. The protester's tactics became a synthesis of Civil Rights and environmental issues. This led to the development of the “environmental racism” phrase and the Movement for Environmental Justice. Researchers then began to examine how “environmental risks are unequally distributed in society”.
Three studies in particular fueled and defined environmental racism research. All are directly related to previous examples of African-American group opposition to waste facility sites. In the first case, the US General Accounting Office (GAO) observed the demographics of communities by four big commercial hazardous waste landfills in SE United States. Three of them were found to be in mainly African-American communities. The United Church of Christ led a study that compared ZIP codes with no TSDFs to ZIP codes with TSDFs. Those with none were 12.3% minority population, those with one TSDF had double that, and those with more than that had the highest amount of minorities. This study found that 3 out of 5 African and Hispanic Americans lived in areas with uncontrolled toxic waste sites. The third study discovered that 21 of 25 solid waste facilities in Houston were found in African-American communities.

Earlier work on environmental racism research began during the 1970s when a group of researcher analyzed EPA air quality data to see if there was a relationship between economic status and exposure to polluted air. These studies showed that poorer neighborhoods do have more polluted air. However, in Chicago it was shown that different pollutants affected different social groups. It depended on where the people worked or lived, no matter what race. Overall, the exposure depended on residential patterns, like living closer to factories versus highways. The pattern of all the studies was consistent, because all across America it was found that the urban poor, who were generally African American, were more exposed to polluted air. The Conference on Race and the Incidence of Environmental Hazards held at U of M further cemented the idea that race is “more strongly related to the incidence of pollution”. Studies grew even more in the 1990s, and most of the work was centered on the quantitative and geographic analysis of waste sites and operating plant pollutants.

The type of waste sites discussed next were sold waste sites (dumps/sanitary landfills), hazardous waste sites or TSDFs that deal with hazardous industrial wastes, and uncontrolled hazardous waste sites which deal with improperly disposed hazardous materials. National and local studies were done involving solid waste sites; nationally no consistent trends were found, but locally more African-Americans were found to live nearer to solid waste sites. There are about 378,000 uncontrolled waste sites in America. None of the studies done involving these are reasonably representative. For TSDFs, some research hasn’t shown any racial environmental inequalities, but some has. Overall the research is like a double-edged sword: TSDF owners can use the research against it to contest charges, but it also suggests the need for a better analysis of social geography.

The main two issues that have been ignored in environmental inequality are the upper social class’s position in this whole issue and its global history. It’s still unknown if this is a result of race or social standing, and researchers tend to focus on the bottom classes. The upper class has basically been ignored. The wealthy are most likely found in the pricier neighborhoods found further from waste facilities, because they can afford those properties. Since this is a general assumption, the topic is most likely not considered researchable. Historically, the literature on environmental inequality has been American. The few articles that aren’t American show the economic development and resource extraction related to indigenous peoples. These do show that the issue is global, though, and that it’s generated by the international political economy.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Swyngedouw's "Power, nature, and the city."

Swyngedouw’s article “Power, nature, and the city; the conquest of urbanization in Guayaquil, Ecuador: 1880-1990” does not only discuss Guayaquil but rather the largest city and the areas that survive off of it. Within the abstract of the article he makes the situation he is dealing with very clear in the pithy phrase (which is much more dramatic in Spanish) “ Agua, drama sin final,” or “Water, a never ending tragedy.”

The circulation of water is not only an issue of sustaining life, but rather it is deeply “embedded in the political ecology of power, through which the urbanization process unfolds.” The control of water reflects the issues of politics, society, and the economy – or more accurately reflects Ecuadorian dependence on cocoa, bananas, and oil and the implications of each these dependencies.
Simply put, when the number of people in Guayaquil began to rise, the amount of available water went down. Swyngedouw states, “The ecological conquest of water is a necessary component for the expansion and growth of the city,” which requires “considerable capital.” It is the duty for man to engineer the flow of water for himself, but before he can accomplish this he must have the money and power to accomplish anything.
The article goes on to talk about the Guayaquil from the eighteenth century onwards; the city begins with modest roots of 5,000 people using water from wells to the population and the need for water skyrocketing and having to create an intricate system of water politics. In this same section, “The origins of commodified water,” he strikes a blow at the white rich. This mentioning of the rich white folks being able to “defecate in the sometimes silver bowl of the toilet, comforted by the privacy of their custom-made decorated lavatories…the poor continued to use the streets as a public toilet.” This reminds me of the “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema Tribe” article (http://academic.evergreen.edu/g/gerstg/Naciremapg3.htm) that many early Anthropology students are required to read. The article similarly describes how people are obsessed with the use of the bathrooms. Swyngedouw’s article does not mention any sort of shame on the part of the poor in Ecuador which I think is interesting because of the cultural difference. While (most) American’s would never dream of bathing in a river it is what the people in third world countries do because they do not have access to domesticated water and the “necessities” that people take for granted.
Swyngedouw also addresses the issues of cocoa, bananas, and oil. From the 1850s Ecuador’s economy became centered on agricultural exports and by 1890 cocoa accounted for 90 per cent of total exports. The structure of the urban and rural life changed and power and distribution of money were geared towards promoting the interests of the city. As the city expanded though, the supply of water began to slow down. The city would only receive water for a few hours a day. As the cocoa economy crumbled the amount of water began to stagnate. When money began to run short the water supply suffered. The period when cocoa failed is “characterized by political instability.” After more bad political workings, the sanitation works went unfinished. The city was no longer able to invest in itself.
My favorite line of Swyngedouw’s comes when he discusses the “banana bonanza decade of the 1950s.” It sounds like a seventies show with a location change to the equator, but sadly it is not. The situation of Ecuador depending on the banana makes me hate eating Chiquita bananas. The city for a time had the financial ability to promote urban development and housing projects.
Then oil became the source of money once Ecuador lost the banana market. The city would again depend on a new market. Of course the oil prices would fall and the city would face another water crisis.
The overall effect of the article makes a person feel guilty the next time they go to the sink and fill up a glass of water and only drink half of it. Or the next time they’re in a swimming pool. Or any number of things. The focus on “social production of nature and the city is essential if issues of sustainability are to be combined.” Water explores how nature and society are mixed in with political and economic fights. Unfortunately, we can’t just give our extra half glass of water to the Ecuadorians, just like we cannot give the food we don’t eat to the starving people in India. Also bad, the situation in Guayaquil is not a single incidence in the market of water. All over this Earth covered in water people do not have water.
For fun information about what American’s are doing during a drought check out an article from the Wall Street Journal, “Drought turns water into cash crop.” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123785079745319125.html

Power, Nature, and the City

“Power, Nature, and the City” discusses the urbanization of Guayaquil, Ecuador, amidst the social struggle for control over and access to water. As of 1992, almost half of the city’s residents do not have access to potable water. Those with no connections to the water distribution system purchase their water from private water vendors for exorbitant prices; for this reason, they can only afford about 20 liters of (unclean) water a day. Swyngedouw reports that this situation is not unusual in Third World countries around the globe.
The author describes the growth of a city in relation to water supply. In order for the city to expand, its inhabitants must master the flow of water for their own use. This process requires significant wealth to be accomplished; therefore, those who master the flow of water are powerful as well. Thus when a water shortage exists, those with less power are often excluded from access to water. In Guayaquil’s case, as the city grew, selling water became a profitable business due to water shortages. Water vending created stratification between water vendors, who increasingly tended to be white people or those from mixed descent, and water buyers. With the commodification of water, access to water was determined by one’s ability to pay, creating further social stratification.

The author includes a brief history of water in Guayaquil. In 1884, a reservoir filled with water piped from the nearby Agua Clara River was created by a French company. Lavatory businesses moved in, and as a result, social stratification increased, as indoor plumbing came to be a sign of high social class, and “status, gender, and power became reflected by the odors of the body” (p. 4). Thus exclusionary water practices centralized power and demarcated social stratification, with the wealthy white people using fancy toilets and the poor people continuing to use the streets as their toilet. Occurring in parallel to the seizing of control over water, Ecuador became an agroexport country for cocoa, placing it squarely in the global economy. Seventy percent of the land was controlled by twenty families, and the need for wage labor greatly increased. A wealthy merchant class centered around cocoa formed as well. This bourgeoisie class extracted rent from immigrating wage workers and assumed considerable control over the city’s institutions, including newspapers and even schools. The city grew, as “a process of rapid urban development through the accumulation, investment, and consumption of the rents and riches from cocoa production was initiated” (p. 7) Sanitation and wages declined. In 1900, urban water projects were deemed to be of national importance and received funding from the national government, along with sanitation, so conditions improved. This went well at first, but when the city outgrew its water network, private water vendors moved in.

After struggling with ways to bring more water to the city, inhabitants of Guayaquil received a plentiful supply of clean water through a new water system, La Lolita, around the clock from 1928 to 1932, during which yellow fever disappeared, likely due to the clean water. However, as the cocoa economy crumbled, the powerful merchants and bourgeoisie desperately searched for other ways to uphold their wealth. With shifting powers, the water urbanization process floundered. Money from the national state that was promised to the water system ultimately was spent on other things or did not even reach the city. The water flow fell from 20 hours a day in 1932 to 6-7 hours a day in 1946, and contamination became more common. While the flow of water dwindled, the city continued to grow. Soon only the inner city containing 45% of the city’s inhabitants had a domestic water supply.

During the 1950s, U.S. banana corporations moved into Ecuador, revitalizing Guayaquil and other coastal cities. As a result, the city grew rapidly, more than quadrupling its population between 1950 and 1976. At the beginning of the banana boom, a new potabilization plant was built in Guayaquil. However, within its first decade, the population had already expanded to the plant’s anticipated full operating capacity, and water shortages once again ensued.

With the creation of the bioengineered “Chiquita” banana in the 1950s, the U.S. banana business moved back to South America. While large producers in Ecuador managed to stay afloat, thousands of small- and medium-sized producers were forced to join the urban lower classes, causing the city to expand further. Living conditions grew worse, and violent riots and protests followed in the late 1950s and early 1960s; the urban water crisis took a backseat to the political turmoil. However in 1959, in an attempt to prevent such social unrest, the national government created an organization whose official goal was to “keep on insisting for a supply system that provided every household with unlimited quantities of water” (p. 15). The organization blamed water shortages on “technical and natural constraints” (p. 16), using nature as a scapegoat for the government’s failure to provide the city with water.

In the 1960s and 1970s, control over the city’s water system changed hands several times, but any alterations they made to the water system were outpaced by the city’s rapid population growth. The rise of the oil business in Ecuador in 1972 again altered Guayaquil’s water structure. The La Lolita pipe was closed, but money made from oil was used to capture more water for the city. In 1974, the World Bank granted a $24 million loan to water projects in the area, but few projects were actually put into place. With the collapse of the oil business in Ecuador in the 1980s, people flocked to urban areas even as funding for cities dwindled. An earthquake in 1987 and El Nino exacerbated the situation. In the midst of its worst water crisis yet in 1987, $51 million in loans was allocated to the city from worldwide organizations, which was promptly suspended two years later when the organization in charge of the water system did not honor the terms of the contract. Since then, structural changes have been made such as expanding water pumping, but nothing has solved the dire distribution problem.

Currently (as of 1997), another potabilization plant is being built on a $75 million loan from the Spanish government. This will improve the services for those already receiving water, but inhabitants without domestic water access will have to continue to rely on private water venders. The author concludes that the urban water system in Guayaquil has always been embedded within and influenced by the social and political environment of the city. It seems ridiculous to me, yet unsurprising, that water, which I consider a basic human right, is not available to everyone. I recently read Blue Covenant by Maude Barlow for another class, which is about the global water justice movement. The book is filled with (briefer) histories such as these from around the world, including how people fought against water shortage. Thus, the situation in Guayaquil is, unfortunately, not unique, as both Swyngedouw and Barlow would agree.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Planet of Slums

The first article concerning Mike Davis’s Planet of Slums begins with a description of the worldwide trend towards urbanization. Due to an increase in urbanization and a shrinking countryside population worldwide, “cities will account for all future world population growth” (p.1). It is significant that most of this growth will occur in the cities of developing countries, in which “there is little or no planning to accommodate these people or provide them with services”. (p.1-2). Not only are supercities becoming larger, but small villages are becoming cities, and small cities are becoming larger cities, likely resulting in increasing inequality within and between cities of different sizes. However, this urbanization is not due to expanding job opportunities from industrialization; rather, agricultural deregulation is resulting in a surplus of rural laborers who flock to urban areas. Because urban areas are suffering from an increase of debt and depression rather than an increase in employment opportunities, these laborers end up in urban slums. While other sources blame nations’ governments for global slums, Planet of Slums blames globalization, neoliberalism, and inequality. Davis compares Slums’ warning about the disastrous effects of growing global urban poverty to the dire consequences of global warming, which I believe is an effective way to illustrate to the reader just how serious this problem is.
Slums are defined as “overcrowding, poor or informal housing, inadequate access to safe water and sanitation, and insecurity of tenure” (p. 5) and make up a third of the urban population worldwide. While classic slums were located in inner cities, modern slums are more likely to be located on the outskirts of cities. There is a trend towards slums being greatly undercounted. As a result, many of the statistics in this article are preceded by “there may be…”, indicating that many of the statistics are closer to guesses. For instance, there “may be more than a quarter of a millions slums on Earth” (p.6). Davis’s argument would benefit from more accurate statistics, but unfortunately they seem to be unavailable.

Many slum dwellers occupy their land illegally, making eviction a constant threat. To make matters worse, many slum dwellers lack adequate sanitation services (the worst of which are those in Africa) which lead to the death of at least two million urban babies and small children every year (p. 7). They are also prone to flooding, mudslides, and pollution from neighboring factories.

According to Davis, the 1980s inevitably led to an explosion of slums when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) implemented a Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) in which world economies were restructured through privatization, using the debt of poor countries as leverage. People in rural areas could not compete with global corporations. Thus by taking away state control, the rich are becoming richer, while the poor are becoming poorer, all but eliminating a middle class. Davis describes strategies that women desperately devise to survive and contribute income to their families, including factory work, piece work, and prostitution, among others. It seems that once again, minorities and women get the short end of an already short stick. Despite immense expansion of worldwide trade in the 1990s, urban poverty continued to worsen.

Davis compares globalization to the original creation of the Third World. In the latter, peasants from around the world were forced into the global economy to their own detriment. Globalization is causing a similar phenomenon, leading millions to struggle to survive as members of an informal working class consisting of “unskilled, unprotected and low-wage informal service industries and trade” (p.11), resulting in the perpetual
reproduction of absolute poverty.

Unfortunately, uprisings by these informal workers tend to be “episodic and discontinuous” and are usually focused on immediate issues rather than the overall picture (p.14). This perhaps depressed me most of all—that they are not finding significant ways to fight back against their appalling situation. Davis emphasizes that we cannot use past revolutions to predict the behavior of those living in slums today, as “history is not uniformitarian” (p.14). As an example of how the current situation differs from the trends of the industrial revolution, Davis describes an increase in religiosity in developing countries in contrast to the secularization of the working class during the industrial revolution. Some, such as Jean Comaroff, argue that this turn to religion is a form of resistance, as many of these churches organize ways of helping its members to meet their survival needs.

The second article, “Slum Ecology: Inequity Intensifies Earth’s Natural Forces”, emphasizes the poor living conditions of people living in slums. People are moving to scarier conditions out of sheer survival, conditions in which “the destructive power of natural elements leaves today’s slum residents in an ever more vulnerable state” (p.22). These conditions include toxic waste, ground collapse, flash floods, and landslides, sometimes in seismically active areas. A more immediate fear is fire. A slum’s “mixture of flammable dwellings, extraordinary density, and dependence upon open fires for heat and cooking is a superlative recipe for spontaneous combustion” (p.23). Often, these fires are set by landlords who do not feel like waiting for (or paying for) court demolition procedures. As a horrific example, Filipino landlords prefer to douse a rat or cat in kerosene, set it on fire, and let it loose in the slums; it will set several shanties on fire before it dies, after which the fire will spread easily. It sickens me that human beings can have such little regard for life, human or animal.

In addition, poor cities do not have sufficient urban planning, which would provide open spaces and a separation of industry from inhabited areas. Instead, poor cities are mixed in with factories and do not have open spaces to provide room for recycling the massive amounts of waste they produce. There is a large gap between waste generation and disposal in poor cities, leading to an overflow of waste. In fact, “digestive-tract diseases arising from poor sanitation and the pollution of drinking water are the leading cause of death in the world, affecting mainly infants and small children” (p.25). Finally, the restructuring of poor urban economies around the world has left them with no way to fight against their conditions by taking away public healthcare. Thus natural forces and human forces have combined to limit and even exterminate millions of impoverished people around the world.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Planet of Slums

“For the first time the urban population of the earth will outnumber the rural.”
Davis starts out with this little f act. He tells us that this transition may have already occurred in the third world. In fact, the world population has exploded way faster than anyone could have ever predicted. There are now 400 cities that have over one million people inhabiting them. By 2015 it is predicted that there will be 150 more cities that have such a big population. The cities will continue to keep growing but it seems as if the rural areas have reached their peak and will begin to dwindle down.

In the urban climacteric he goes on with some more numbers concerning the population. Davis tells us that there will be megacities that reach the eight million mark and there may even be hyper cities that reach more than twenty million inhabitants. To me it’s beginning to sound a bit repetitive, at least until he moves on to one of the problems of this population boom.
“But if megacities are the brightest stars in the urban firmament, three-quarters of the burden of population growth will be borne by faintly visible second-tier cities and smaller urban areas: places where, as UN researchers emphasize, ‘there is little or no planning to accommodate these people or provide them with services.’”
If the thought hadn’t occurred to you already the problem becomes clear after reading this section. A lot of these cities simply aren’t equipped to handle all of these people. They don’t have the space or the resources. The reason this is happening is because people are moving into smaller cities and causing them to grow. The big city problems are now being extended out to the smaller cities in the world. It’s as if millions of people are moving into small town America, those small towns simply can’t handle all of the new people. This population boom in the small cities is pretty much destroying the whole idea of a small town. Small towns never used to have the big city problems and with this growth they are gaining problems they have never faced before.
“ The mountain of trash seemed to stretch very far, then gradually without perceptible demarcation or boundary it became something else. But what? A jumbled and pathless collection of structures. Cardboard cartons, plywood and rotting boards, the rusting and glassless shells of cars, had been thrown together to form habitation.”
Here comes the heart of the problem. Davis describes the slums so well that you really can’t ignore the sad feeling that comes over you. It is estimated that there were 921 million people living in slums in 2001. That is an astonishing number. The people who live in these slums are said to earn less money than the cost of their minimum required daily nutrition. The sad thing is that countries like to ignore this problem by lying about it. An example of this is Bangkok; their poverty rate is only 5% but after a survey is was shown that a quarter of their population was living below the poverty line! The countries are massively undercounting the slum populations.
“The urban poor, meanwhile, are everywhere forced to settle on hazardous and otherwise unbuildable terrains—over-steep hill slopes, river banks and floodplains. Likewise they squat in the deadly shadows of refineries, chemical factories, toxic dumps, or in the margins of railroads and highways.”
The poor are forced to live in these terrible conditions on the edge of cities because they have no other choice. Poverty has created a whole new urban disaster. The people living in these areas are at constant risk for floods, mudslides, and plant explosions along with the dangers of the toxic fumes surrounding them. The sad thing is this doesn’t look like it’s going to get better any time soon. It is estimated that two billion people will be living in slums by 2030. It is estimated that 40 to 50 percent of the total population of cities by 2020 will be living in poverty.

The best part is that the Reagan and Bush administrations helped this along with the IMF. The IMF is supposed to be helping people but instead they are hurting, they simply don’t have the knowledge needed to help these people.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ecological Legitimacy

Laura Pulido discusses cultural essentialism as having assumptions about indigenous groups and “third world” communities thus leading to negative assumptions of these people based on pre-conceived connotations made by what she refers to as “officialdom”.
The relationship between the Hispanos in northern New Mexico and the United States government is used as the case study about ecological legitimacy and essentialism. This area was originally inhabited by Pueblo Indians until Spanish conquistadors and mestizo settlers began to settle the region. Hispanos lived in the area and their communities were based on collective ownership over the land. After the United States gained control of the region in 1848, they did not recognize communal land ownership, thus leading to the commodification of the land, this in turn increased resource consumption. All of this lead to the economic downfall of the Hispano people, and although there were some attempts for development projects, rarely did they address the loss of the Hispano land. All the development within the region focused on changing the individual while ignoring the original thriving rural economy, which was relatively self-sufficient.

Laura Pulida attempts to shed light on the misinterpretation of ecological legitimacy among traditionalistic poor populations. She uses the case of the Hispanos in New Mexico and their communal land tenure and once becoming commodified lacking very little if any means of subsistence. Pulido points towards the misinterpretation and negative bias towards traditional cultures inability to properly and sustainably tend to the land in an environmentally friendly way. While these people have successfully grazed and persisted on these lands since the late 17th century, once commodified, and government control of the land took over, the Hispano people lost their traditional way of subsistence. Are now being blammed for their poverty while the government is failed to be seen for its actions.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Economic Legitimacy and Cultural Essentialism

Do the poor harm the environment more than others? Laura Pulido's piece analyzes two prevailing thoughts regarding land use by the poor. One idea is that the poor are a threat to the environment because they use wasteful land-management practices. The other idea is that poor and indigenous peoples are so connected to the environment that they understand the importance of preserving nature.
Pulido argues that it is important for poor and indigenous peoples to shed some of the myths surrounding their use of land. In order to do so, they must establish ecological legitimacy. For a group to have ecological legitimacy, it must be seen as truly committed to preserving the environment. Ecological legitimacy is important for groups in order to earn respect when it comes to broad acceptance of their practices and support for their plans (and thus a lessening of resistance to said practices and plans).

Pulido uses the example of Ganados del Valle (meaning Livestock of the Valley), a collaboration among Hispano farmers which was formed in the 1980s. The collaboration helped to increase the incomes of nearly four dozen households in rural New Mexico. At the same time, they also exercised environmentally sustainable practices, such as avoiding pollution and resource extraction while growing organically-grown lamb.

Despite these environmentally conscious practices on the part of Ganados, their efforts to acquire land in order to expand faced opposition from environmental groups as well as the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish - opposition which, according to Pulido, stemmed from the aforementioned belief that poor and indigenous people lack environmental legitimacy. Ganados worked hard to gain the respect of the owers that be, but to little avail at first. It was only after they illustrated the close relationship between their culture and their management of natural resources that they were able to develop ecological legitimacy among those outside their group.

Despite the success of Ganados, Polido cautions that culturalism is not necessarily a fail-safe way for poor and indigenous peoples to establish ecological legitimacy. One of the reasons she makes this argument is that many cultural arguments used to establish this legitimacy are often vague. Additionally, cultural preservation arguments are based on the usually flawed idea that given certain circumstances, the culture will die unless the action they support are taken. She believes that both may have caused Ganados's strategy to backfire.

Nonetheless, Ganados is seen as a turning point in the way poor and indigenous people's relationships with the environment are viewed. "Ganados is building a a rare example of social and environmental justice," she argues, one that, while not necessarily perfect, is promising in debunking people's misconceptions about these relationships. Whether these misconceptions are truly done away with remains to be seen.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Collins - Labor Scarcity and Ecological Change

Jane L. Collin’s piece Labor Scarcity and Ecological Change is an incredibly informative piece discussing the issues regarding and surrounding labor scarcity and its effects on Latin American families and communities. She begins by defining the nature of labor scarcity and the ways in which it affects many contemporary rural communities, examining the relationships between economic diversification, migration and trade faced by rural households. She then moves forward to examine the many debates over labor availability amongst rural commoners and lastly covers the policy dilemmas that arise, using the case study of the Peruvian Andes and how the experiences and lifestyle of the people in the rural communities affects their lives and production.


Her section titled The Nature of Labor Scarcity in Rural Areas takes the work of Deere and de Janvry (1979) to a higher level, discussing the idea that wage is not work, however it is the only activity that takes peasants off of their farms and into the work force. In northern Peruvian homes for instance nearly half of their income is from the sale of labor power. Collins discusses land and labor scarcity by pointing out three major observations, one being that land scarcity arises from processes of land transfer and encroachment, as well as demographic growth, (Important in my opinion). Second she states that whatever the cause of land scarcity the downward pressure it exerts on a household’s income may FORCE individuals to leave rural areas in order to increase household income and commerce (Not a guarantee that demographic growth and rural exodus will eventually balance one another). And lastly a factor that may force rural individuals and families to diversify their production is the decline in the trade in which they are experiencing due to secular economic trends, the emulsion of small business family farms and a relative decline in prices.

Collins goes on to discuss Visions of Labor Surplus and Scarcity in Agricultural Research and uses W. A. Lewis to illustrate this information. Lewis’s proposition was that the economics of developing nations could be viewed from two perspectives, the first being from a position of low productivity , basing the intensity and remuneration of labor from a view of customs or tradition, the second proposing a comparison between population figures in relation to capital and natural resources putting limitations on the social and family environment. Lewis had been criticized on three different counts, an implication that neglect of agriculture was a force and motive for economic growth, a methodological/empirical criticism and lastly a his model being based on evidence that was weighted in historical contexts, though there is a clear point in his model basing out of historical contexts when looking at “political repression, debt bondage, and racial, cultural and gender-based barriers to economic participation in relation to opportunities available for rural households and communities.

For me the most intriguing section of this article was the section The Seasonal Migration of Aymara Cultivators, where Collins discussion shifts away from the logistics of labor scarcity and towards and application with the glance at the Aymara, which represent a case where the diversification of economic activities on and off the farm have stretched the labor resources of the population to their limit. With relatively small plots of land as well as unfavorable markets it is no wonder that the people of the eastern slopes of the Peruvian Andes are faced with labor and ecological issues. Having a lack of knowledge for cultivation and limited labor availability it is no wonder they are facing such issues. Families must travel to the lowlands for work in the off months, distancing themselves from themselves (which seems illogical but it makes perfect sense) as well as placing strain cultural and ritualistic practices.

This was a very thought provoking piece.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Labor Scarcity

Generally, poor rural agriculturalists divide their time between on-farm and off-farm activities to stabilize an income, whereas larger landholders get most of their income from the land they work. This chapter begins with a question of whether development programs (mostly concerned around less fertile land) should put effort toward off-farm industrial wages or on-farm capacity investments. The answer entailed a bigger-picture description of labor scarcity.

W.A. Lewis (I took him for an elite economist of capitalism) reasoned that small farms would have plenty of extra labor and still be able to function properly, because that’s what it looks like when people migrate (from temporarily to permanently) off the farm in search of income “from the free choice of the individual.” This gave rise to labor-intensive development which hurt more than helped.

Jane L. Collins argues land scarcity and labor scarcity are closely related. Labor requirements seem to outweigh available labor, and less labor means less productivity and more land degradation, as seen with the Aymara-speaking farmers of Peru. Their main cultivatable land is in the labor-intensive highlands where they manage the land carefully and can at least grow enough to sustain themselves. Supplementary coffee fields below bear the brunt of strained labor supply. Collins seems to want them to permanently move there to manage the soil better, and give up the highlands and their food supply (I think I might have missed something). However, her bigger problem is with the government in their commercialization of coffee and their indirect control over the whole process (maybe that’s what I missed).

The Jamaican soil preservation terraces didn’t work (partially) because the “philosophy was that if productivity could be improved, and soil loss decreased, farm labor could be more fully utilized and young people would be attracted back into agriculture.” The main times for maintenance and agriculture conflicted, landlords could have decided to take the land away from the farmers, prices fluctuated, and there was no market outlet. They knew labor was going to be a problem.

The Peruvian soil preservation terrace project worked with the people more, and seems to have been successful, but this article doesn’t exactly say. This time current labor availability was considered. Initial terrace construction was intense, but maintenance was less. The terraces needed more labor to farm on, but yields were higher (is there a typo that said fertilized land was 43% and unfertilized was 142%?). All in all, the terraces sold themselves.

So, whether off-farm wages or on-farm productivity should get more attention is relative to the place. Too assess this, go local and ask rural families their considerations for “gains and risks over the short and long term” (Peru) rather than “engaging in elaborate promotional campaigns” (Jamaica).

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Imperial Valley gives us keen insight into the unsustainable nature of an imbalanced society.
"The only real difference is that the stagnation and declining number of small farms happened faster and earlier in the Imperial Valley than elsewhere in the U.S."

So there we have it, yet again. The conversion from a system of smaller, sustainable farms to corporate industrial agricultural can have devastating effects on an environment if not properly monitored. This means governmental regulation. No other entity within the U.S. is allowed authority in such matters.

So, this article like several others we've had, makes the point that we must have cooperation within the sciences. We must have a holistic approach to these complex problems, as they are holistically composed. This is, as James O'Connor is cited in the text, because production is composed of three conditions.

1.) "The natural conditions which are the content and context of production"
2.) "The personal conditions of the people and their familial milieu"
3.) "The communal conditions such as material infrastructures and cultural sites and practices"

Obviously, if production is based upon these three components we must have all three in equanimity to have optimal production. As it goes within market economies, the entire system must function cohesively for compartments to experience optimal enrichment.

And let's face it, we all want optimal enrichment.

California's Imperial Valley

Use "Environmental history and environmental sociology" to "illuminate the roots of present problems" and develop ideas as to how to resolve them. For most I think that this should be obvious-learn something from past mistakes. It would appear the seeing environmental issues through economics and political views have two effects- either it clouds the vision and/or it inhibits good judgment. Between 1850 and 1900 was the planning to bring water to the dessert but even in the initial stags of this process it was plagued with problems, maybe someone should have taken this as warning. 1901 to 1941 Development of irrigated agriculture in the dessert. This was supported the great possibilities of "great" economic profitability of agriculture, if ecological, labor and community 'problems could be held at bay. The power to control the valley and poor planning resulted in the first of many disasters that affected the people around or near the valley, this of course was corrected by more control. More...
Then there was the issue of labor problems and the neighbors on the "Mexican side" that appeared to create more problems and still no one took the hint that this may not be a good idea. Maybe it was because of the huge investments that were made. Regardless of the cost (either environmentally or socially) they were going to make this work. All of this would swept under the rug, the next thirty years of profit would certainly wipe away all of the problems of the past and no one would remember or care. From 1942 to 1972 the area was booming, "The gross agricultural income in the valley increased by more than 600%. This was all backed by federal and state support and lack of awareness of the weak foundations that were being built in the local governments and economy's. The lack of the administration and enforcement of the 160 limitations, the residency requirements and the termination of the Bracero would have long lasting effects. 1973 to 1993 brought changes in the agricultural economy, new regulatory processes and "destabilization of agricultural production and profit". Ecological conditions became quite evident and the affects on the local economies were in a steep decline. Many growers and producers have moved to "newer" production areas and jobs have moved away, the younger generations so they have moved away for better employment opportunities. Today many of the jobs that are left are minimum wage and most of those that hold higher positions are not from the area. The Salton Sea is contaminated and the only economic possibility that the area may have surrounds tourism but that would appear limited due to the conditions of the lake. Had the history of this area been taken into consideration it would seem as though that there could have been preventative measures taken to prevent the degradation of not only the natural environment but also the social environment.

Rudy: A Historical Political Regional Economy of Agriculture: California's Imperial Valley

Through a case study of the Imperial Valley of Southern California, the article seeks to model an interdisciplinary approach focusing on the interconnectedness of historical, political, social, ecological, community-related, and ideological states of being designed to take into account all of the various contributing factors promoting degradation of the environment and the social consequences thereof.

This idea seems to be nigh unto impossibly expansive, but the article manages, through admitted oversimplification of complex power struggles and extensive annotation, to give a brief overview of the processes involved in society's negotiation with its natural, social, and communal environment. This last concept (5, elaborated in note 9) is perhaps the single most important point to take away from the article, and summarizes the angle that it is suggesting that the field of environmental sociology should take, rather than simply talking about the social aspects of the environmental movement or gathering opinion surveys (4)

As we have heard argued and applied throughout the course (not surprisingly, considering the author), the article makes the case that the "environment", as a term, is not to be constrained to the "natural/scientific" world in which we live. It also includes the "physiological/psychological" personal world, as well as the "cultural/infrastructural" world that comprises our social environment and intellectual and cultural heritage. We live in all of these worlds, and here it is argued that they are NOT separate, isolated entities, but rather three parts of the same whole, presented as the preferred, inclusive sociological definition of the word "environment". Assuming we have all read the article, the example of the Imperial Valley need not be elaborated in great detail here, but let us agree that it presents a compelling instance of capitalist production "externalizing", or shrugging off, its costs into all three sectors of the environment in a process called a "through-put", which refers specifically to end results of production "which are not produced or reproduced as commodities" (6).

The capitalist agricultural production of the Imperial Valley externalizes costs to the natural environment in many ways, including the fundamental alteration of the water table to support agriculture in a desert, thereby destroying the original ecology of the region, the release of large amounts of pesticides into the water that has been diverted to the area, making it untenable for the fish and bird populations that have been introduced, etc. These are the costs of this kind of production that we are all familiar with. However, capitalist production also externalizes costs to the other two parts of the environment, the parts that are not traditionally associated with environmentalism:

The personal, or psychological/physiological environment consists of individuals, and their personal quality of life. The case study discusses the costs to the people of the area, including the exploitation of Mexican farm workers, the extreme racial inequality, and the increasing accumulation of resources into fewer and fewer hands at the expense of the majority of the population, as evidenced by increasing unemployment and inadequate financial, educational, and health resources for individuals in the area.

The communal, or cultural/institutional environment includes the system of production and the government's interaction with it, as well as community organization and composition. The government subsidies, funding for infrastructure, such as drainage development, the Hoover Dam, and the All-American Canal, and continual ignorance of flagrant violations of federal land-use law which all require public resources to create and maintain are obviously part of the costs that have been shrugged off onto this part of the environment. Also to be included here is the driving off of well-educated young people that represent a vital community resource by the unilateral economic development, and the extractive nature of businesses taking advantage of incentives provided by local government to build in the community, while either bringing employees in from elsewhere or paying very low wages to the local employees that they do use, and also extracting wealth due to the export of revenue to the national or international headquarters.

The crux of this entire system, of course, is to show how all of these conditions are not separate occurrences or trends, but part of the same system of capitalist extraction. The fact, presented at the end of the article, that the greatest efforts to reform each of these three areas of the environment coincided in time is a vital one to the moment of realization that occurs upon absorption of the material. The natural, personal, and communal worlds are shown to be vitally interconnected, and mutually degraded by the accumulation of capital. Thus, accepting the argument of the article, and I do, environmental discourse cannot discuss nature as if it is somehow outside of or above our lives and our institutions, but must address it as it truly exists in the real world: part of the same set of manifold conditions in which we and our society exist, all three mutually affected by the destructive mining of capital.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Neumann: Political Ecology in Tanzania - Wilcox

The main focus of this article was how the political ecology of Tanzania is disrupting the preservation of wildlife. Political ecology has to deal with how "land user's behavior is influenced by social structures and processes that extend beyond his or her immediate environment", particularly in a Third World setting. The reason the parks are in such a threat is because the idea of natural areas is not very popular with the surrounding residents. The fact that the residents surrounding the parks don't comply with park regulations, wildlife is taking the consequences from poaching. The battle has become one of encroachment vs. wildlife.
National Parks are not very popular in Tanzania for many reasons and the first one is how they were established. These parks were brought up when this country was under British rule after WWI. These areas were drawn up on maps thousands of miles away with no concern for the locals; citizens were living life peacefully one day and the next they were told to leave because this area is now "protected". This was first noticed in the Serengeti National Park, established in 1940, where the Masai people were they had to change their life because of the new park boundaries. They could now not graze their cattle on land they have been doing it for many generations; "national parks severly disrupted historical patterns of land use". The second case of local populations of people disliking the thought of national parks was in the Mt. Meru area. The Arusha National Park was established in 1960 and was very unliked because the new park rules made it hard or impossible to continue their way of life. They now had to graze cattle in very distinct areas, had to reduce taking coffee as cash crop, and had to have various restrictions on honey production becasue of the danger of fire. Citizens are not the only ones having to deal with the new problems.

Wildlife such as the elephant and black rhino were being poached at an alarming rate, which still is true today. Since the introduction of the parks people had to change their ways of life because farming was just not an option anymore. The ivory from the elephant and the rhino tusk are worth a lot of money, so the native residents took advantage of the resources. These two species have became near extinct in the park and the black rhino is almost extinct all together. Wildlife officials are very aggravated over the situation because they are getting no help from the locals about poachers. The wildlife officials are not concerned about the citizens as much as they are the wildlife because "those of man ... are of second importance".

To sum up the article I would have to say it is an argument of encroachment vs. wildlife. There is a great deal of population growth, particularly in the Third World, and people are just needing more space to live; animals are always going to get the short end of the stick, particularly when the people they live around do not care about them as much as others. There is just no way growing populations/encroachment can co-exist with conserving nature because the needs of the people will met if the law allows it or not.

Political Ecology of Wildlife Conservation/ Mt. Meru Area

The author of the text, R.P. Neumann, begins his introduction with a couple of startling statistics, stating that Tanzania's elephant population decreased by more than 50 percent in the 80's and 98 percent of its black rhinoceros population is gone as well (Neumann 85). These numbers are staggering and should certainly catch the reader's attention. It's degradation like in the Arusha National Park that Neumann focuses on in his research.
Neumann claims that what is missing from the debate on what is causing wildlife populations to decline and the solutions to such problems is "the volatile politics of nature protection in rural Africa." He goes on to say that the "establishment of national parks is... a political process" and in colonial Africa, it involved denying resources to whole settlements, "threatening the very existence of communities" (85).

Following the introduction, the author describes the approach that was taken in doing his research, calling it "political ecology" and explains what it encompasses: "the political, economic, and social structures and processes which underlie human practices leading to degradation." Before getting into his research, Neumann describes the difficulties associated with taking a political ecology approach to degradation problems and cites specific examples before concluding that at its "most elemental level, a political ecology perspective entails: (1) a focus on the land users and the social relations in which they entwined; (2) tracing the linkages of these local relations to wider geographical and social setting; and (3) historical analysis to understand the contemporary situation" (86-87).

The author begins the section titled "Political Ecology of Threats to National Parks" by defining degradation as 'a reduction in the land to satisfy a particular use,' and threats as "environmental conditions that 'are in serious conflict with the objectives of park administration and management.' He then goes on to give examples of declining animal populations in Arusha National Park, such as buffalo, giraffe, and eland, and relates that conservationists and government officials chalk such degradation up to "overpopulation and the ignorance and irrationality of local residents," an interpretation that Neumann suggests is "seriously flawed" (88).

The next portion of text deals with historical information of Tanzania's national park system. It begins with the establishment of the Society for the Preservation of the Flora and Fauna of the Empire (SPFFE), a conservation group based in London, which, through an investigation, suggested that forming national parks was critical. Modeling national parks in other parts of the world, the SPFFE "made [it] clear that humans were not welcome in [the] parks, but allowed that under the prevailing political climate, preservation 'cannot be pushed to a point at which it seriously conflicts with the material happiness and well-being of the native population' (89).

The insistence by the SPFFE of the importance of national parks lead to a Tanganyika government proposal to designate 3000-4000 square miles of the Serengeti to become the first national park. As it turned out, however, this was not done without resistance. On one side of the debate were the conseravationists and natural resource professionals, and on the other were officers in charge of the colonies who worried that the conservationists were imposing on the rights of the people. The conflict grew, resulting in destruction of land and the killing of animals. The park was then divided into two areas, one where humans were not allowed and the other where the Masai were allowed to live and graze animals. In 1959, however, a new ordinance was drawn up, basically stating that human rights would have to come second and no humans would be allowed in the park. This pattern was repeated throughout Tanzania (90).

Neumann next focuses on the history of the Arusha National Park. European settlement left little area for the Meru to live and graze their cattle. When the British began ruling Tanganyika, many of the reserves established by the Germans were kept in tact and by 1920 all of Mt. Meru was designated a game reserve and strict state control outlawed settlement, cultivation, and hunting on the land, but some rights were preserved such as the allowance of residents to take produce from the forests for their own use. This and other rights were soon put to question, however, and the indigenous people found themselves submitting to the terms of the Europeans, and then taking their case to the United Nations, where they lost. As years passed, state control grew and tightened and the park eventually expanded from the original 4000 sq mi to 28590 acres in 1969. This expansion and strict rule has caused a severe collapse in grazing and the Meru have little customary rights (93).

Following the historical information of the Arusha National Park, Neumann discusses the current politics and wildlife conservation in the Mt. Meru area. Here the mainstays are coffee production and cattle-keeping. Neumann writes that "[p]articipation in cash crop production has provided the basis for a rising standard of living" but Meru's northern villages are in a much poorer state and Nasula residents are fighting for rights to more land, which is causing concern in the conservationists and state officials. Many of the people have been fined of breaking the state laws by using the land illegally and there is much conflict between the two parties (95).

Neumann states that there is little interest in the people of the of Tanzania to help the conservation efforts. He relates that many of the residents know of poaching in the area but have not told officials who because they feel the park provides no benefit to the village. The people believe that policies place animal rights above those of humans. For example, as the numbers of certain species began to decline, laws were passed that protected them from being harmed if they strayed into local farms. After government-built fences became useless (I found it funny that bull elephants learned to short circuit the wires) residents became helpless (95).