Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Living Is for Everyone

Giovanna Di Chiro's article "Living Is for Everyone" is an account of a 'toxic tour' that the author and environmental activists, including Teresa Leal, take of the Ambos Nogales region. Di Chiro examines the work of Teal throughout the article, and focuses on the tour's border crossings to "narrate a history of community health and environmental action in a transnational context" (112).
With Leal as the guide, the tour begins with the group crossing the U.S.-Mexico border from Nogales, Arizona into Nogales, Sonora. At this point in the article, Di Chiro briefly explains Leal's practices, saying that she is not only an environmental activist but also a cultural historian, women's right advocate, and a social activist who has devoted many years to" improving the environmental conditions endangering the health of her family, community, and native land" (114). Di Chiro points out that Leal's passion for environmental justice extends far beyond her own "local environment" and encompasses a larger 'community', and that this "community-environment concept defines a new ecosystem," one that will be further presented in Di Chiro's article.

Di Chiro goes on to talk about the Santa Cruz River, which, to the Tohon O'odhman people, has become known as hik-dan, or a parched "cut in the earth," due to overpumping and the dumping of toxic chemicals and untreated sewage. Also discussed is the Nogales Wash, a dry tributary, which has become a dumping site for garbage and other waste. Di Chiro notes that she learned that the protection of these water sources is at the heart of the fight for environmental justice in the Ambos Nogales (116).

Next the author discusses Nagoles, Sonora's city industrial park district with 100 facilities which began to pop up in the '60s as "an economic development strategy to encourage foreign investment and create jobs to bolster Mexico's flagging economy" (116). Due to lax enviornmental restrictions, the industrial parks have played a huge role in the poor health of residents, workers, and the environment. One activist group known as Comadres ("comothers") works to empower women to fight for improved living and working conditions. Di Chiro writes of various accounts of these poor conditions including women who's mental states are affected by working around glue in a factory, and a woman who lost two children to cancer because of radiation exposure.

The tour continued on to an old landfill, something Di Chiro notes that Leal chose as "a site of action" because of the health and environmental dangers associated with it. Because children were often found scavenging the dump, Leal set up a drop-in center called Mi Nueva Casa, that offered things like food, drug treatment, and literacy classes to the kids (122). In addition to this, Leal also worked with activists to monitor water sources near the dump. Poor regulatory practices lead to the dumping of waste outside of the site's fences and into nearby lagoons and washes.

Di Chiro ends her article by reiterating that water protection is the key to improving environmental conditions and that this is not just an issue for those living in arid landscapes, but a "larger-than-local water politics that spans borders of all kinds--national, racial, gendered, economic, linguistic, ecological, technological, spiritual, and epistemic" (129).

1 comment:

  1. You and Di Chiro note that water is an issue that "spans borders of all kinds--national, racial, gendered, economic, linguistic, ecological, technological, spiritual, and epistemic."

    One of the most striking things I've learned in our class is exactly how hard - or, impossible - it is to isolate the environment as an issue. The environment really does affect so many aspects of our day-to-day lives, such as health. Measures taken to protect the environment do have some sort of impact beyond just the environment (though such effects are not always good).

    Because of this, it is important that those on the front lines have at least some sense of the interrelationships between the environment and other issues - from health to the economy to education. This article shines the spotlight on one such person, and hopefully there are many more out there.