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Dr. Robert H. Bullard is a professor of sociology at Clark Atlanta University. He is one of the leading authorities in the nation regarding environmental justice, and has written or edited several books on the issue, including Dumping in Dixie:Race, Class and Environmental Quality; Unequal Protection: Environmental Justice and Communities of Color; and Confronting Environmental Racism: Voices from the Grassroots. More significantly, he has played a major role in organizing and mobilizing the environmental justice movement over the past two decades.
Environmental Justice: Strategies for Creating Healthy and Sustainable Communities
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Environmental justice is defined as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies. Fair treatment means that no group of people, including racial, ethnic, or socio-economic groups should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal, and commercial operations or the execution of federal, state, local, and tribal programs and policies. Over the last decade or so, grassroots activists have attempted to change the way society views community health. Grassroots groups have also organized, educated, and empowered themselves to improve the way health and environmental policies are administered. A growing body of evidence reveals that people of color and low-income persons have borne greater environmental, and health risks than the society at large in their homes, neighborhoods, playgrounds, and workplace. Children are at special risk from pollution. A case in point is childhood asthma, an emerging health epidemic in communities of color. Between 4 to 5 million children under age 18 suffer from asthma. Persons suffering from asthma are particularly sensitive to the effects of indoor air pollution and carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxides, particulate matter, ozone, and nitrogen oxides. Hospitalization and mortality due to asthma exhibit wide racial and class differences. It is the leading cause of hospital admission for children. Asthma is a growing environmental justice and social equity concern because of its implications and impact on vulnerable populations (low-income persons and people of color) and its larger cumulative impact on these at-risk communities.
Despite significant improvements in environmental protection over the
past several decades, millions of Americans continue to live, work, play,
and go to school in unsafe and unhealthy physical environments. During
its 28-year history, the U.S. EPA has not always recognized that many of
our government and industry practices have adverse impact on poor people
and people of
color. The EPA is mandated to protect all Americans---not just individuals or groups who can afford lawyers, lobbyists, and experts. Environmental protection is right, not a privilege reserved for a few who can "vote with their feet" and escape or fend off environmental stressors. In response to growing public concern and mounting scientific evidence, President Clinton on February 11, 1994 signed Executive Order 12898, "Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations." Executive Order 12898 attempts to address environmental injustice within existing federal laws and regulations. It reinforces Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discriminatory practices in programs receiving federal funds. The Order also focuses the spotlight back on the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA, a law passed in 1969 that set policy goals for the protection, maintenance, and enhancement of the environment.
Grassroots groups are making sure that government agencies do the right thing. On May 1, 1997, after eight years of litigation, Citizens Against Nuclear Trash or CANT won a favorable court decision from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. The three-judge panel concluded that "racial bias played a role in the selection process" and denied a permit from Louisiana Energy Services to build a uranium enrichment plant in the middle of Forest Grove and Center Springs, Louisiana---two black communities that date back to the 1860's and 1910, respectively. The decision was upheld on appeal on April 4, 1998.
EPA Administrator Carol Browner did the right thing several months ago
by issuing interim Title VI guidance for facility permitting. Because
of the growing number of administrative Title VI complaints at the EPA,
it makes sense to have uniform guidance in place to address these problems.
Ms. Browner also appointed a 22-member National Advisory Council on
Environmental Policy and Technology or NACEPT to advise the agency on implementing Title VI requirements. The NACEPT scheduled its second council meeting in Philadelphia on July 27-28. Members also scheduled a "toxics" tour of nearby Chester.
Recent environmental justice court victories by citizens in Chester, Pennsylvania and Flint, Michigan provide clear signs that states need to do a better job assuring nondiscrimination in the application and implementation of permitting decisions. States have had 34 years to implement Title VI. Most have chosen to ignore the law. Instead of blasting EPA for acting, states need to develop standards, procedures, and tools to implement the law.
Battle lines were drawn in a major environmental justice test case.
Japanese-owned Shintech, Inc. applied for an air permit to build a $800
million polyvinyl chloride plant in mostly black and poor Convent, Louisiana.
The Shintech plant would have been located in St. James Parish---a parish
that ranks third in the state for toxic releases. Over 17.7 million
pounds of toxic releases were reported in the 1996. The average American
is exposed to about 10 pounds of toxic releases per year. St. James
Parish residents are exposed to a whopping 4,500 pounds of toxic releases
per year without the Shintech plant. The Shintech plant would add
600,000 pounds of air pollutants annually. The community already
has a dozen plants that are so close to homes, residents could actually
walk to work. But in reality, the jobs are not there for Convent
residents. After some 18 months, the citizens of Convent and their
allies forced Shintech to throw in the towel this past in September 1998.
This was a major
environmental justice victory.
Governments must live up to their mandate of protecting all communities
and the environment. Anything less that is unacceptable. Many
of the problems, disputes, and complaints could be prevented if existing
environmental, health, land use, housing, and civil rights laws were vigorously
enforced in a nondiscriminatory way. No community, rich or poor,
urban or suburban, black or white, should be allowed to become a "sacrifice
zone" or dumping ground.
It's really a pleasure to be here this evening to talk with you about an issue that is very dear to me: environmental justice. I had a chance to meet with three classes today and talk about some of the research that is underway at our center in Atlanta, and to really talk about the issues of environment and how environmentalism has really been changed - redefined - over the last 20 years. So, this evening I will be talking about "Environmental Justice: Strategies for Achieving Healthy and Sustainable Communities."
How do we define environment? I have an easy definition of environment. Environment is everything. It's where we live, work, play, go to school, as well as the physical and natural world, and how those things interact. We have been able to redefine, reshape this whole concept, because, if we are to make environmentalism part of our lives, it has to be a working definition.
What is it? A lot of people say, "that's a fuzzy thing." Well, environmental justice embraces the principles that all communities, all people, are entitled to equal protection of our environmental laws, health laws, housing laws, transportation laws, and civil rights laws. All those laws and regulations. We have to enforce the laws that are on the books. If we do that, we will protect everybody.
If we talk about the major elements of environmental justice, it includes equal enforcement of laws and regulations, identifying and eliminating discriminatory practices and policies. Whether those policies and practices are intended or unintended doesn't matter. If there are impacts that are regressive, that are negative, that fall heaviest on a certain population, and if we can eliminate those effects, we should do it. It is also addressing environmental and health effects, socioeconomic disparities, pollution prevention, and disease prevention. Environmental justice basically says if we can prevent disease, we should prevent it. If we could eliminate pollution, we should eliminate it, because it costs us much, much more to address environmental problems at the end of the pike than it does to prevent them in the first place.
Environmental justice also involves protecting workers. Whether it's farm workers or whether it's workers in a chemical plant, workers in a catfish processing plant in the Mississippi Delta, or protecting workers who are in sweatshops, and there are rising sweatshops in this country. Those fancy designer clothes that we all like to wear, they are in many cases made in sweatshops... in Los Angeles and New York, and mostly made by immigrants, mostly made by women, women of color. Or they are made in China by children. Pesticides that are banned here are manufactured abroad. So, we think we've done great things, but we end up eating vegetables that have been grown in Costa Rica, or bananas or grapes or whatever, that use the same pesticides that we ban here, end up on our fruits and vegetables on our table, and we have not resolved the problem. So the circle of poison addressing environmental issues, environmental degradation, here, as well as abroad, and making sure that our own consumption policies and patterns do not somehow end up in other places around the world.
Environmental justice also means community empowerment, and bringing stakeholders to the table so that they can voice their opinions, and to make sure that their opinions are respected. Not to say that everybody has to march lock-step, everybody has to look alike. Environmental justice is not about creating little brown Sierra Clubs or little black Audubon Societies or little red Greenpeaces. It's about making sure that people have access, have information in a user friendly way and can make decisions. The impetus for this paradigm shift, and this is a paradigm shift... Environment is more than just birds and ducks and whales and wild lands, wilderness. This stuff is very important, but also we're talking about urban habitats, rural areas, what happens, and basically bringing people to the table. We see environmentalism as being a basic right. We don't see it as a privilege. If you don't like it, you can vote with your feet. But some people can't vote with their feet. Some people can't leave neighborhoods that have lead poisoning, neighborhoods that are next to toxic waste sites, neighborhoods that are next to freeways. Some people can't leave. Some people don't want to leave. Some people have a right to stay and to be safe.
Look at how this paradigm shift has changed. You see all kinds of conferences and governmental interpretation of laws and regulations. We see a more growing, active public, and activism among grassroots groups, low income people, people of color, grassroots groups led by women. And so we see changes that are made. We see students involved in all kinds of social movements, but also involved in environmental issues. If we talk about coalitions and alliances and groups, we find networks, we find civil rights groups joining in this issue. Church groups, environmental groups, medical groups, we have all kinds of groups now saying there's only one movement, and that's the movement to basically address the environmental issues everywhere. There's no place to say that environment is "out there." Environment is also in this room.
If we look at how we were able to change this, in 1991 we had a summit. It was a First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, where we brought together people from all over the world and had a conference in Washington D.C. And this conference basically said we had to do a better job of protecting our people and communities in this country and around the world. Any time you have a summit and a major meeting in Washington, you have to have a demonstration. And this is one of the demonstrations on the Capitol steps (pointing to a slide).
If you look at this whole myth - a lot of people say, "you know, people of color, black people are not concerned about the environment. All they are concerned about is housing, welfare and all these other things." Myth, wrong! People of color are concerned about the same thing that white people are concerned about. The health of their families, the health of their communities, and the health of their neighborhoods. Health of their children. We put together a directory of People of Color Groups in the U.S., Mexico and Canada. We found groups located all across the country. This next map shows you where the groups are located (pointing to a slide). The solid black dots represent black groups. Most of the black dots are located in the southern United States. Not by accident. Most black people are located in the south. Most of the orange shaded triangles are located in the Northwest, North, Great Plains. Those are Native American organizations. And so, we find groups located all over the country. African American, Native American, Latino American, Asian and Pacific Islander groups located all across the country working on all kinds of issues. They may not have environment in their name, but they are environmental organizations working on all kinds of issues.
What are these groups asking? They're asking some real tough questions. The way that we do environmental protection and environmental regulation, and environmental management, have not been equally done across the board. There are some communities that are more equal than others. So, if we talk about leveling the playing field, making sure that no community is vulnerable just because it's poor. Just because the unemployment rate is high, does not mean that it should get all the nasty things for the sake of economic development and for the sake of jobs. Poor communities say, "we don't want the poison of other communities." And they have a right to say no. And what we are saying is that when communities talk about jobs and economic development, environmental justice is not about taking jobs away from people and closing down businesses. It's about making sure that all workplaces are safe and that all communities have a right to a decent wage and a clean environment. That's all we're saying. This is not rocket science. This is common sense. It makes a lot of sense now, it made a lot of sense 20 years ago.
All kinds of studies have been done to address these issues. The first major national study was done in 1983 by the General Accounting Office. It looked at the location of off-site hazardous waste landfills in Region Four, eight states in the south. This was 1983, and what the GAO found was that three out of four of the off-site commercial hazardous waste landfills in the region were located in predominantly black communities. Now, when I say predominantly black, that's like me saying my family is predominantly black. These are like all black communities. Three out of four. However, African Americans only made up 25 percent of the region. Twenty-five percent of the population, 75 percent of the waste. That is disparate impact. That is over supply of nasty things in one area. I travel all across this country, and I have never seen an over-supply of libraries in black communities. I have never seen an over-supply of groceries in black communities. Amenities, the things people take for granted. But I have traveled, and I have seen a disproportionate burden of all kinds of the locally unwanted land uses, or the "LULUs".
In 1987, the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice did the first national study looking at toxic waste and race. They did a sophisticated analysis. They did a regression analysis, where they looked at where landfills were located by zip codes, and did a regression analysis to pinpoint what's the most potent variable to predict where these facilities were located. And, as it turns out, it was not class, it was not income, it was not property values, it was not the cost of land, it was race. Race was the most potent predictor of where hazardous waste landfills were located. Race. This was 1987. This was not an academic university that did this study, not the government. This was a civil rights organization, church based.
In 1988, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry did a study on lead, and reported to Congress, and basically found that lead poisoning is still a big problem, that the residual (the leftover) lead is effecting mostly urban, inner-city children, and that African American children are lead poisoned, at every income level, at twice the rate for white children. This study shows that middle income black children are more likely to be lead poisoned than lower income white children. This is a race thing. Why? How can that happen? If you talk about housing, if you talk about segregation, if you talk about institutionalized discrimination, if you talk about residential apartheid, middle income African Americans are as segregated as lower income African Americans. Black people with low income, no income and middle income, we generally live together. And so, the housing in older areas with lead poisoning effects those populations at greater.
In 1991, there were seven of us that went to EPA under the Bush administration. William Riley was the EPA Administrator. Seven of us went to the EPA Administrator and we said, "Mr. Riley, EPA is doing a lousy job in protecting our communities." We closed the door. We were very nice. We put a chair to the door. And we said, "EPA has to do a better job in protecting Native American communities, Latino communities along the border, urban inner-city areas, whether it's the ghetto or the barrio. You've got to do a better job. You've got to do a better job at protecting our Chinatowns from the mostly older areas in terms of lead poisoning. You've got to do a better job of protecting farm workers, better job of protecting people who live in the southern United States, because the south is becoming a dumping ground." And he said, "Well, we don't understand what you're talking about." He put together this working group, environmental equity working group, this is 1990-1991, and EPA produced a report in 1992, Environmental Equity Reducing the Risk to all Communities. This is the first EPA study that recognized that there is a problem in the way that we do business in terms of environmental protection.
This is a cover of a book that I wrote in 1990 (pointing to slide), this is a different cover (pointing to slide). This is Warren County, 1983. These are schoolchildren prone on a highway blocking dump trucks that are filled with PCB-laced soil that was illegally dumped along the highways (pointing to slide). The state of North Carolina needed a place to put this nasty stuff, toxic contaminated soil, and they picked one of the poorest counties and one of the blackest counties in the state: Warren County. Somehow, this place was such a great place for this nasty stuff. Is there something about our neighborhoods that makes them such great places? Because of the soil permeability, because of the wind flow, the toxicology, hydrology, sociology? The only science involved is political science. I'm being honest now. I can tell you this because I have tenure.
Dumping in Dixie is a book that I wrote, and the book came out of a study that I was doing in Houston in 1978. My wife came to me, this community came to her and said, "we want to stop this landfill that this company is putting in our community." This is a solid black, middle income neighborhood in Houston, Texas. Suburban. Eighty-three percent of the people own their homes. These are brick homes. Nice, solid, middle income neighborhood. But somehow this company, I'm not going to call any names, but the initials are BFI, wanted to put this landfill in the middle of this middle income suburban neighborhood. They came to my wife, and my wife, two years out of law school said, "Bob, this is not right." She said, "Who can I get to collect data from the census that works with census data to pinpoint the history and pattern of landfills being located over a period of time? I need somebody that really does that kind of research." Now, before, she had no idea what a sociologist was. A sociologist in her mind was this person who developed these theories, formulated hypotheses, hired a few graduate students to go out and collect the data (and if you're lucky run it through the computer and get the printouts), write an article or a book or two that basically verified the obvious. That's what sociologists do. I said, "Well, you need a sociologist..." She said, "That's what you are, right?" I said, "Yea." "You'll do it, you're it."
So, 1978 and '79, I had ten graduate students in my research methods class in Houston, and so we were able to compile the history and pattern of landfill sitings in Houston over a period of time, and the results are pretty amazing in terms of what we found. It wasn't amazing or astonishing to the people who lived in the neighborhoods. One hundred percent of all the city-owned landfills are located in black neighborhoods. Now again, predominantly black. How do we know? Jim Crow did it. Six out of eight of the city-owned incinerators were located in black neighborhoods, and when the city got out of the business and turned it over to BFI, BFI did the same thing. Three out of four. So 80 percent of all the landfills and incinerators that were used to dispose of the city's garbage were located in predominantly black neighborhoods. Blacks only made up 25 percent of the population. Now that is disparate impact. Everybody produces garbage. There is a direct correlation between per capita income, waste generation and per capita income. The more money you have, the more affluent you are, the more waste you produce per capita. This is not saying that poor people don't generate waste, but you don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand that rich people throw away more than poor people.
I wrote another book. This is kind of hard to see (pointing to slide). This cover of a book that I wrote in 1993, South End Press out of Boston, Noam Chomsky Press. This cover is a picture of protesters, Native Americans in Philadelphia - no, not Pennsylvania - Mississippi. A lot of people don't even know that there are Indians in Mississippi. This company from Connecticut found them, and wanted to put a hazardous waste landfill on their reservation. And, of course, they protested and they fought and they won. And this photograph that was in the Clarion Ledger, which is the Jackson, Mississippi newspaper, was such a great photograph that captured it. I said, that ought to be on a book! And I said okay, it is. So, this is how it is.
This a book, Sierra Club Books. I set the president of Sierra Club up. We were both on the Board of Directors of Friends of the Earth, Michael Fisher, and we were talking and I said, "Michael, Sierra Club, they really do great coffee table books." I said, "They have such great photographs, you can just sit it down and it just captures you." I said, "Why doesn't Sierra do a real book about struggle, about people." He was impressed. He said, "Oh, that would be great. Bob, do you have anything?" I said, "Yea, Michael. It just so happens that I do." He said, "When could you have the manuscript to me?" It was like Friday. I had it to him on Monday. This is 1993. The book came out in 1994. Sierra Club. This is the first book about people and struggle that Sierra Club Books has done. And the book is doing well. It was well received. It has a lot of collection of struggle and voices from the grass roots. Voices that are not tampered with. People telling their stories exactly like they have done it. Lot of good stuff. That's not a commercial.
We even have lawyers. I have a lot of lawyer friends. As a matter of fact, my wife's a lawyer. We got the National Law Journal to do a special series on this issue. We said, "lawyers read the National Law Journal, and they believe what's in the National Law Journal. Whether it's true or not, they believe it. 'Cause if it's in the National Law Journal, it must be true." We got them to do a study and what they found is that there is unequal protection in the way the environmental laws are carried out in this country. They did a special series, and they basically said what we've been saying all along. Some communities do not get protection. Some communities get promises, they get studied, but they don't get enforcement and they don't get protection. The National Law Journal said it, so it must be true.
What does all this mean? It means that when you look at these various studies and you analyze and compile it, it means that, overall, people of color are more likely than whites to live near abandoned toxic waste sites, reside in polluted neighborhoods, suffer from lead poisoning, work in hazardous, low-wage jobs, sustain an injury on the job, and lack health insurance and access to health care. That's saying a lot. It doesn't mean that we are saying that there are no white communities that are impacted. There are. Working class, lower income in lots of areas. And we've worked with them. But if you talk about urban areas, and you talk about rural areas, and you talk about vulnerable populations, and it is both class and race.
What has been the government's response to all this stuff? And we've gotten response from Democrats and Republicans. We've had responses over a period of time. For example, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 says that no federal funds can be used to discriminate based on race or color. That law has been used in housing, in education, employment and a lot of areas. But the environment somehow it didn't get used, until recently.
You have the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, that was passed in 1969, says that before any type of operation that may have an impact, or potential impact, you have to do a study. An impact study. Environmental, health, socioeconomic impact. We say, do it. Don't just build a road and say, "well there's no impact." You build a road through these universities, that's an impact. We've got cases where we've worked on, if you look at "Just Transportation," the book that I edited, there's a case where the Kansas DOT ...Anybody from Kansas? I don't care. I'm gonna talk about it. Kansas DOT wanted to build a road, Lawrence Freeway extension, through Haskel Indian Nation University. A road through the university, and said that it had no impact. This is an Indian University. No impact. And we say, that's bunk. And we have a stronger word, but we know we're in a church. So, we got them to change that to manipulate and say, look you got to go back and do this analysis over. There's no way to have a road built in the middle of a university that you don't have an impact. You have an impact in terms of mobility, access, quality of life, noise, you name it.
The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), it's been around and doing studies and reports since 1971. Air reports. Clean Air Amendment. We talk about the Clean Air Act. Basically designed to protect health and the environment. You have ISTEA. You know, when I used to first talk about ISTEA, Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, a lot of my community folks would say, "Ice-T, oh that's a rapper isn't it?" I said, "Not that Ice-T." "Oh, that's a drink, right?" "No, that's a law." Now we have T21. Lots of money. If you follow the money, you'll follow basically the trail in terms of transportation. Road-building programs that's driven by nothing but the almighty dollar. Building construction programs, and I can say that, again, because I do have tenure, and the fact is that if you're talking about taking away a giant pork. But it's got to be taken away because it's ripping up our communities and it's creating environmental and health problems, pollution problems that's irreversible.
And we have the executive order that President Clinton signed on February 11, 1994. The executive order basically talks about the issue of NEPA and Title VI, assessments, public participation. Next slide please. I have to get my pointer out. Now, this is the oval office (pointing to slide). This is the President. This is the President's desk. That's Carol Browner, that's myself, that's Wellstone, that's John Conyers, that's Vice- President Al Gore, John Lewis, Carol Moseley-Braun, the Senator, Janet Reno. I like to show this photograph, because it shows you that the issue of environmental justice that started out at the very bottom in terms of small communities, trickled all the way up to the Whitehouse. The President signed this executive order, and the executive order basically reinforces the fact that federal agencies that deal with environment and health, have to develop a strategy to address the fact that they have not done what they are supposed to do. And any agency or any organization that takes federal funds that deal with environment, they are basically subject to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. You talk about doing NEPA, having assessments, collecting data. It was really strange that when a lot of communities came to us and said well they are talking about building something in our community and no assessments are even being done. And we would go and say, "well, how is that you are going forward with something without having any assessment?" Do you know who lives in that area? They say we don't know who lives in that area, we're not required to collect that data. Income data, race, ethnicity, employment, we don't have that information. So the President said, we need to collect that information, so that we can actually find out what's happening in the various communities. Whether it's in rivers or streams, in fish and wildlife consumers, people who are subsisters, they're not anglers, they're not sports-fisher persons, they fish for consumption and they consume their fish. They don't throw it back. It's their subsistence. And we have to talk about public participation. If we're going to make democracy work, you've got to bring people to the table and you have to educate folks.
Now, I'm going to get into some details. I'm going to go and deal with some of the bad guys. Monsanto. They've got great commercials. Monsanto has created a nightmare in Anniston, Alabama. This company has contaminated this community and basically the reason why these houses are boarded up is because they have to be relocated, because Monsanto has contaminated this community with all kinds of nasty stuff (pointing to slide). In this case, it's dioxin.
This is Chester, Pennsylvania (pointing to slide). This is how close industry is to this community. Right on top of it. Chester is right outside of Philadelphia. Seventy-five percent African Americans. Suburban. We're in Wilmington, Delaware. People call me and say, "we're having a protest. We want you to provide us with a paper to document what's happening over a period of time." This is in Wilmington, Delaware. And the people in Delaware said, "we want to keep Delaware clean." And the people in Wilmington said, "we don't want any more garbage dumps to be put in our neighborhood." This is Delaware. They say, "but our garbage has got to go somewhere." So, they say, "well, why don't we just send it to Chester. Send it across the river." And that's what they did. And the people of Chester said, "we don't want your garbage. We don't want your incinerator." So, people protested and they filed a lawsuit, and the case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and it was determined moot about three months ago, because the permit was denied, but the Supreme Court got their grubby hands on it, that they should not have had it, and we were glad that it was moot because they were ready to throw out Title VI.
People are tired of air pollution. Clean air should not be just a dream. If you talk about air pollution and quality of life, all communities are not the same when it comes to air pollution. This is a study that was done by the National Argon Lab. And it shows you ambient air quality, non-attainment, one pollutant, two pollutants, and three pollutants. Three is the dirtiest places. And you can see, as you move from one pollutant to two pollutants, three, there are a lot of people who live in non-attainment areas, in dirty cities, dirty areas. There are a lot of white people who live in dirty areas. And you can see the gap widen. Fifty-seven percent of white people in this country live in a non-attainment area, where there's one pollutant. And, as you move down, the numbers get smaller, but the gap widens. What does this mean? Air pollution is creating problems. We're not saying air pollution causes asthma, but we know it's not health enhancing. Air pollution doesn't make you feel better. Ozone doesn't make you feel better. Particulates don't make you feel better, whether it's PM10 or PM2.5, or whatever, it doesn't make you feel better. It's not health enhancing. So, we're not talking about causal links. We're saying something that may exacerbate, something that may trigger, and asthma is on the rise in every place you talk about. Asthma is the number one reason why kids are being hospitalized in most major cities today. Not gunshot wounds, not drive-by shootings, asthma is. They're going to the hospital in record numbers. And asthma, for African Americans, is three to five times greater than for whites. It is not a poverty thing, even though asthma is greatest among low income, urban, inner-city children. It's a big problem among whites in urban areas. Big, big problem. And it's sending the hospital costs and insurance rates through the ceiling. This is an issue that we have to tackle because it's creating lots of problems and it's costing us dearly.
Let's get to a case study in Houston. I'm going to go through this rapidly. Houston is the fourth largest city in the country. And it's sparkling. All the buildings down town, these are Penzoil, Exxon, Shell, you know these are the oil companies. Petrochemical capitol of the world. In the 70's, Houston was like a magnet. It attracted 50,000 people a month there. It just exploded. The more people you get, the more garbage you get. That means you've got to put garbage somewhere. And where you get people, you get garbage. Where you get people, you get pigeons. This is Houston. (pointing to slide). This is the middle-class neighborhood that I was talking about. This is the railroad track. This is a middle-class neighborhood, just somehow there's a railroad track. Something about our neighborhoods, the railroads seem to follow us. This is the Whispering Pines Landfill. Whispering Pines Landfill. These are schools. This is a subdivision. Next slide, please. This is 1978, and the state senator from Texas that represented that district from Houston bought the land and got the landfill. There's a little politics involved here. Next slide, please. This is the entry to the landfill. It looks like a park. This is a BFI truck. I'm standing on the 50-yard line. This is a football stadium, this is a mountain behind these trees. Houston is flat, below sea level, and any time you see a mountain in Houston, you know what it is. This middle income neighborhood don't have basic amenities. The people were clammering about "we want a park." They don't have a park. Here, as I said, you have school teachers, you have lawyers, you have doctors out in this area, and there's not even a single park. No green space in terms of park, but they want to put landfill out there. So the city says well we'll give you a park. Where do you think they put the park? They put the park next to the landfill. Now who wants to go to a picnic next to a landfill? That is insult to injury.
I want to know, is this a Houston thing? Because you know, Texas is another country. So, I went up north to New York City. Anybody from New York? To New York City. To West Harlem. Riverbank State Park. This park has everything. It has Olympic-size swimming pool. It has state-of-the-art jogging, bicycles, it has volleyball, basketball, football, soccer, everything. The problem is, it's built on top of a sewage treatment plant. That treats sewage from all of Manhattan. This is like a soccer field (pointing to slide). This is a smokestack from the treatment plant. Now, this is not trick photography. I took this stuff myself. And they've got trees on top of it. The thing covers eight blocks. It's huge. Massive. And kids have to play in this park. Mostly African American and Latino children.
Dallas. A lot of people don't even know, if they watch the movies or television program, they don't know that black people are in Dallas. They are. As a matter of fact, people of color make up the majority of people in Dallas. Lead smelters. All the lead smelters in Dallas just happen to be in African American/Latino neighborhoods. Here's a lead smelter, here's a lead smelter, here's a lead smelter (pointing to slide). These are elementary schools. This is a 4,500-unit public housing project. This is an elementary school. This is the lead smelter 300-foot smoke stack. This is an elementary school. The smelter, the school. There's no fence line. We all know what lead does to the body. Particularly children. This is insane.
This is the cleanup in West Dallas. When they cleanup the situation, they come in in moonsuits. The people live there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and they live with the lead, and their children are poisoned. Almost half of the children there have elevated blood lead. Children have learning disabilities, they say these are just dumb kids in the project. It's more than dumb kids in the project. It's an environmental problem, education problem, it's a housing problem.
The largest landfill, hazardous waste dump, the Cadillac of dumps, is located in Alabama. It's located in Emelle, Alabama, Sumter County. Seventy-five percent black county, 95% black community of Emelle. A lot of the waste that's cleaned up all over the country is shipped, brought in to Emelle, Alabama. How did Emelle become a dump? George Wallace's son-in-law got the land, smoothed through with Waste Management, and they built this dump in the middle of this black belt community. Right now, it's the largest employer in the county. The county is dependent upon Waste Management for revenue. And any industry that used to be there, a lot of it left. And you can't attract anything else. Who wants to be the neighbor of a toxic waste dump? This is the landfill itself. For you geologists, this is called a selma chalk formation. Selma chalk is supposed to be impermeable. When they did the statement and the report, they said this selma chalk formation is impermeable, it will last 1,000 years. And with a liner, thousands of years. It leaked in ten.
This is West Virginia (pointing to slide). West Virginia State College, Union Carbide, Canar River. Now, a lot of people don't even know there are black people in West Virginia. Union Carbide found them. Now, these people have been there since 1865, when West Virginia broke away from Virginia. Black folks went with freedom. I'm not staying with slavery. Don't take me back. They left and they went with West Virginia, and they settled along the Canar River Valley in this little area here. And West Virginia, in 1880s, needed a place for its Jim Crow school, because they were creating the University of Virginia, so they created West Virginia Colored Institute. That's how Institute gets its name. This is 1880. So, if I get a question of chicken and egg kind of thing, I'm going to tell you, West Virginia State College was there and Institute was there before Union Carbide came in there in the 50's. This is unique in that the plant that killed all those people in Bhopal, India (1983-84), the prototype for that Bhopal plant, where do you think it was? Institute. The only place that manufactured methyl isocyanate (MIC), the only place that manufactured that in this country, where do you think it was? Institute. Methyl isocyanate is what killed all those people. They've had explosions, they've had accidents. In 1984, they had an eruption that sent 300 people to the hospital. One way in, one way out. They have an emergency response. They had a whistle that didn't blow. So people basically stayed. And, any time you talk about an accident of MIC, do you think the fire department is coming in to warn people? "Do not leave your home. Shelter in place." That means stay in your homes, close your windows, and pray. This is real. This is not 1920, this is right now. This is the college, this is the campus, this is the plant. That's how close it is. I'm on the campus of West Virginia State College. This is a house and this is the plant. That's just how close it is. Fence line. This community was there long before the plant came in.
Louisiana. I'm going to go to Louisiana because, anyone from Louisiana? Louisiana is the Mississippi of the 90's. It's the toughest nut to crack when it comes to the environment. Because of the fact that Louisiana right now has been sold to the highest bidder and the highest bidder is the chemical company. Along this 85-mile stretch from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, you have 125 petrochemical plants. Twenty-five percent of the petrochemicals in this country is produced in this little small stretch of the river. You have many communities along the river that were founded right after slavery. So you went from sugar cane plantation to chemical plant. And the chemical plants came in post World War II, in the 40's. They produce some of everything. You've got grain elevators, you've got chemical plants, you've got oil refineries, you've got all kinds of industry along the river, winding along the river.
This is Baton Rouge from the air (pointing to slide). Do you see the oil storage tanks? You see refineries, you see all kinds of things. This is Baton Rouge from the ground. This is the state capitol, this is a Shell accident that happened. You get lots of stuff. North Baton Rouge is where most of the nasty things are, where most of the black people are, where Southern University is. Where LSU is, you don't have a lot of things like this. You have residential apartheid. These are petrochemical plants. These are people that have given up. That's a cemetery. Next slide, please. That was crude, I'm sorry. This is the petrochemical plant at night. Looks like a city. But it's very deceptive. This is Norco, Louisiana. This is a Shell plant. This is a park that's located next to this Shell plant. If you stand there for five minutes, ten minutes, you get a headache, nose starts to run, eyes water. It's the Shell. This reminds me of Ogone, Nigeria. Same company. Shell. Royal Dutch Shell Company. This is Norco, Louisiana. Again, this is a playground. These are refineries. These are drums storage. And it's so close. And these kids are so innocent. And this is a playground.
Winning on the grounds and winning in the courts. We have been fighting. When I say we, I'm talking about grass roots groups, I'm talking about my other partners in academia, and there's just a few of us out here in academia. A lot of our colleagues don't like to get their hands dirty. They see what we do as not real sociology. My thing is we do sociology. It's just that Marx and Veber and Durkheim and some of these other brothers, they are just not around with us right now. They're with us, but again, when I got into a community to talk about Marx, they say, "yeah, I saw that, Groucho, right?" But the idea is that the sociology that we're doing today is changing the way sociology is done. Environmental sociology, big field. You know, Iteach classes, and the only thing that determines the size of my class is the number of chairs in the room. I try to keep the chairs to the minimum because when you start pulling chairs in, the next thing you know the class gets too big and they'll be out in the hallway tomorrow. Well, what about it?
Bean v. Southwestern Waste Management 1979. That lawsuit was filed by my wife in Houston. The executive order (pointing to slides illustrating major events in the environmental justice movement).
The first lawsuit that we were able to win was filed in 1991 and we won it in 1997. I'll go through that briefly. This is a company that's British, German, American. They want to build a uranium enrichment plant, get this, in the middle of these two little black communities in Louisiana. We don't need any more enriched uranium. We're not building more power plants. We've got enough enriched uranium at DOE and the Soviet Union. It's lying around. You want some enriched uranium? Hey, how much do you want. We don't need any more. This plant was going to be built one-half mile from the nearest resident. In the EIS, the draft and the final, they said the closest resident, now this is their sign, they said the closest resident was five miles away. And we proved them wrong, because the closest resident was a half-mile away, because these two black communities were not on anybody's map. Forest Grove and Center Springs, these communities have been there since the 1860's, but map makers didn't put them on the map because they are unincorporated, and when the person that was selecting the site drove through the area, they saw a few boarded up houses, they didn't go into the little dirt roads and alleyways and find the people. They saw boarded up houses so they assumed that there was nobody there. You understand that poor people in the winter time sometime board up their windows with plyboard because they don't have central heat ... and they're trying to keep warm. You do that by boarding up the windows. I tried to explain that to this company and they said, well I don't see how that could be. I said, why you've never been poor.
This is the search (pointing to a slide). They said, "we did a scientific process of picking this site and we picked the best site. We looked at the whole United States as our target." And what we did was said, "Okay. Thirteen percent of the United States is African American." Then they said, "we narrowed it down to the southern United States." We said "okay, they narrowed it down. Twenty percent of the southern states is African American." And they said, "we picked Louisiana." And we said, "Okay. Louisiana is 31 percent black." Can you see the pattern? Then they said, "we picked northwest Louisiana." We said, "it's 35 percent black." They said, "we picked Claiborne Parish." Forty-six percent black. We started doing this, and we did this systematically. Next slide, please.
The church is very important in our communities. It's always important. Forest Grove Baptist Church, sorry CME, was where they held their meetings. The community organized C.A.N.T., Citizens Against Nuclear Trash. Organized, mobilized, educated themselves, bi-racial group. This issue brought black people and white people together that generally didn't even talk to each other, but they brought them together, and they worked together, and they came up with a common good is the health of the community.
When we did a GIS analysis, geographic information system analysis, and we started to draw one circle one mile radius around all these sites that they said they were selecting. They came up with 78 sites in northwestern Louisiana. And we did a GIS and we found that 28 percent of the population at least in a one-mile radius were African American. When they narrowed it down to 37 sites, the black population increased from 28 percent to 36 percent. You see the pattern.
Now, let's look at another one in Louisiana. Shintech. They wanted to build a polyvinyl chloride plant in the middle of cancer alley, in Convent, Louisiana. Now here's the thing. When we did our analysis and looked at all the data and looked at their reports and everything, there was a lot of violation. There was no public hearing. The company, if they put it there, would add 3.6 million gallons of waste water per day into the Mississippi River that's already overextended in terms of pollution. It'll pump 600,000 pounds of toxic into the air annually. The community already has 12 plants and has a jobless rate of over 60 percent. And they're like, so what's the deal? You got all these plants and all those jobs, how is it that this company is going to bring in $45,000 jobs for people who make, on the average, $6,000. It's all bunk. It's all smoke and mirrors. It's all promises. It's all hype. It's all Memorex. This stuff is not real. What they did, the community, these two ladies here, these are grandmothers, I'm sorry, they're great grandmothers. They led the struggle. They were able to pull together Greenpeace and Tulane law students. Tough as nails. Take no prisoners. They don't give up. They're like Pitt Bulldogs. They grab on and they latch on and they don't let go. And the other ones, they're the driving forces behind running Shintech back to Japan. They had a hearing, and the newspaper said, "well, the community is divided." These are the people who testified against Shintech, saying, Shintech go home. (pointing to a slide, showing a nearly full gymnasium) PVC. Stop dioxin.
These are the people who were for it (pointing to a slide showing four people). When I took this picture, the guy said don't take my picture. I snapped it and I said I got it. And I had my posse, my partners, backing me up. We got the picture. This is a public meeting. Get on the other side if you don't want your picture taken. Of course, that shows you it was not divided. But somehow the paper wanted to make it appear that somehow that the community was for the plant, they were for jobs, and we were somehow, being outsiders, were agitating the local natives and trying to stop black people from getting these $45,000 jobs. Carol Browner, in her wisdom, sent their proposal back. The environmental racism case basically revolved around all these things that I just mentioned. And the communities hung tough, the permit was flawed. There was all kinds of violations and discrepancies, etc., and on September 17, 1998, Shintech threw in the towel and said, "you women down there are too tough. They spent a lot of money and they got nothing. They got zero. They got a boxing lesson. The fact is that it's a new day. Communities want jobs, they want economic development, but they don't want to get poisoned in the process. They don't want their communities destroyed.
Next slide. ... This is a slide I took from the airplane. There
was a sunset, and I like to take my camera. This had nothing to do with
anything. It was a sunset and I was looking through the window and I said
I've got to take that sunset. I grabbed my camera and took pictures from
the plane and I said oh that will make a great ending to a presentation.
Thank you very much.
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