Sunday, March 29, 2009

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.

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