During the course Of this research I used website (USA Today) to look up my old school and found that the chemical most responsible for toxicity around my old school was sulfuric acid. Sulfuric acid is used in the production of fertilizer, which makes sense because the San Joaquin Valley is the states top agricultural producing region, sometimes called the “nations salad bowl. ” Sulfuric acid can cause respiration problems, and irritation. Long-term exposure causes cancer. It was through this experience and others that became interested in environmental justice.
In particular this research will explore who receives the majority of toxicity from illusion as well as who stands to benefit from polluting activities. A wealth of literature exists on environmental justice documenting the fact that people with low incomes, and communities with a large percentage of non-whites bear the brunt of the environmental bad. This becomes a real threat to life when you consider people who lack the means or access to healthcare, or to choose where to live. They have little buffer when confronted with a human made or natural disaster. The research have read suggests that it may have more to do with social and cultural explanations rather than strictly income.
This research presents a few reasons why this is the case. People don’t generally choose to live next to a toxic facility. It is more likely that the person cannot afford anywhere else, works there or the pollution came to them. Through exploring conflict theory, we learn they don’t have the social and economic power to stop it. Evidence People of a lower economic status are exposed to a disproportionate amount of toxicity compared to people that make more money, people that have higher education, and whites.
In addition the exposure to African Americans and Hispanic Americans had statistically significant results showing that they re especially susceptible to toxic exposure, due to where they live, with both air pollution and proximity to solid waste and hazardous materials facilities. In 2002 Michael Ash and Robert Fetter analyzed the social and economic correlates of air pollution exposure in US cities using the 1 990 Census of Population and Housing. They constructed a unique dataset based on the Pea’s Risk Screening Environmental Indicators model (8). This model was able to account for atmospheric effects of dispersion (19). They found higher rates of pollution and toxic exposure consistently among lower income people and overall with people of color.
They found something interesting about Hispanics and Asian/Pacific Islanders. Hispanics tend to live in cleaner cities than whites, but within cities they tend to live in neighborhoods that are more polluted than the white residents in the city (18). Ash and Fetter’s results suggest that policy makers should seek redress for the disproportionate toxic exposure to black neighborhoods, and that environmental justice should remain a priority (20). Research by John Hip and Cynthia Lagoon quantifies the threat of environmental inequality. This research looks at levels of toxic sate in six populated counties in California between 1990 and 2000.
The research explores the link be;en race and toxic environments. Hip and Lagoon found that in areas where there Were more Latino there was 84. 3% more toxicity than in average tracts, and with 15% more Asians there is 33. 7% more toxic waste. This research also found that in areas where some people have higher education (15.
5%) the area is exposed to 88. % less toxic than average. The researchers used census data to look for social disparities in proximity to toxic facilities. They found that those with less education are ore likely to live near these facilities and that this relationship solidified over time. Latino are particularly more likely to be exposed to toxicity and that exposure is likely to be more toxic.
In 1997 Andrew Sass and Michael Musses conducted a review of literature that talks about how the movement against environmental racism began. This research reviews one of the first studies. The researchers include Benjamin Chivies’ groundbreaking research on toxic in African Americans communities. Sass and Musses also review one of the first ever studies in the field conducted in 1970 that looked for a relationship teen economic status (poverty) and greater exposure to polluted air. Overall this study found that “the poorer the neighborhood the more polluted the air (1 01 However there were some caveats.
For instance, different air pollutants impacted both African Americans and white manufacturing employees. This was the case in particular with sulfur oxide, a carcinogen. However this study also took into account emissions from automobiles. In larger cities such as Chicago “all the rich, most of the poor… Almost all the black… Population resides in areas violating long-term particulate standards” 101 This research suggests that people living in larger cities are exposed to more pollutants than people living in rural areas. These preliminary studies were not dominated by race discussion, but rather poverty and specifically urban poverty.
The sass saw a number of studies on the topic of environmental inequality. The work from the sass focused on proximity to waste sites and pollutants emitted by operating plants. Race, occupation, education, and home value are the best predictor of the location of wastes sites. In 1994 AAA Gore was quoted saying, “Race is the single most accurate redirector of the location of hazardous waste sites” (104). Inequality and Conflict Theory The agent of harm is inequality, as much as pollution and polluting corporations.
Research by James Boyce in 2007 addressed how inequality is actually harmful to the environment. He defines an environmental problem as harmful to humans. Ultimately, we all live in the environment, we derive the resources from nature to make our livelihoods. If something is a problem for the environment, then it is a problem for humans (4). When one group of people is exploited by another for economic benefit, inequality is allowed to occur.
Through the lens of conflict theory, this allows those who have concentrated power on their side to achieve their goals better than their opposition, and they are able to build on their victory and gain advantage over Others. In this manner people in power Stay in power. Major polluters say that they don’t deliberately target black neighborhoods, but Sharon says, “Eventually those who win are able to create a system of inequality, a social structure where they are at the top, and a culture and set of intuitions works to protect them” (163). This translates to environmental racism and we see it s an unequal share of pollution exposure. Environmental racism is defined as “the deliberate targeting of people of color communities for toxic waste facilities and the official sanctioning of life-threatening presence of poisons and pollutants in people of color communities” (Sass and Musses 114).
Bad jobs are a major cause of inequality (Sharon 159). Low paying jobs reduce economic power and exist to allow others to make profit. Low paying jobs rob those who hold them of deciding where to live, Sharon says, “it traps them in a life of bare survival” (158). Bad jobs also expose people to more toxic absences than do white collar jobs. Environmental externalities are the consequences of an action where the people who bear the negative aspects of the action have no voice in the decision process.
Some people benefit economically from pollution, but they are rarely those residents that have to live with the environmental fallout. Therefore, more environmental harm is likely to occur in regions where there is high inequality and most people have less information and social, democratic, and economic power. Boyce says, “When the beneficiaries from environmentally harmful activities are more rueful than those who bear the costs, greater inequality can be expected to result in more environmental harm. On the other hand, when those who bear the costs are more powerful than the beneficiaries, we might expect the opposite: greater inequality yields less environmental harm” (9). Conflict theory partially explains the reasons inequality exists.
Conflict theory was derived from Karl Marx who saw that society is comprised of a number of different groups that compete for resources, whether they be economic resources like money or property, or social such as stature, or political power. Social order then, is attained by domination. The most powerful in terms of economic and social power, dominate those with less, and social consensus only comes in opposition of another weaker group. Historically, the conflicts and opposition in society have been over race, gender, and class. Inequality exists because the group in power uses its economic and social resources to its advantage in protecting its power.
This theory is seen in both groups and individuals (Grossman). People who live in polluted communities are the proletariat described in Mar’s conflict theory. Proletariat are the working lass, that do not own land and do not have ownership of the means of production, so instead, they sell their labor. The bourgeoisie are the class that owns land and the means of production. They try to keep wages as low as possible to increase profits.
The people in power do not live in these communities because they can afford not to, and they can afford to move. They have more economical and social power, and they would rather shift toxic exposure to poor communities than in their back yard. Determining the reason for inequality is important because when inequality exits crime, poverty, exploitation, stress, and lack of self-worth are symptoms. “Social inequality is not the only cause of misery in the world, but it goes a long way in explaining much of it” (Sharon 164). Because these symptoms of inequality increase human misery, they should be minimized.
Sharon says that inequality cannot be eradicated, but misery can be limited by working together in a just and democratic society. When alienation between different races in society increases due to inequality the institution of racism and social construction of landscape gives polluters providence to site polluting facilities in poor and black neighborhoods. A paper by Knelt Edwards, an environmental sociology professor at University of Alaska Anchorage, explores the ways people in power euthanize the residents of an area in order to justify harm. This research explores the social construction of landscape at the time of nuclear testing in the mid 20th century in Point Hope, Alaska. The area was described as remote, nonwhite, and sparsely populated.
This allowed political powers to justify the testing at the same time dehumidifying the inhabitants of the area. It is easier for a polluter to site hazardous facilities in poor neighborhoods because it is cheaper. There isn’t the same amount of community backlash and resistance and the poor communities see corporate development as a benefit, that the new construction will bring jobs to the community. While there are a few salary positions that become available, often times the jobs are the low paying, dangerous, and unstable jobs mentioned earlier. This keeps the proletariat stuck in a cycle Of exploitation.
According to Marxism, the system Of capitalism itself is based on exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie. Conclusion During the course of this research found that the corporation responsible or the most hazardous pollution that threatened my old elementary school is from a facility called Met Poss. Generation (LISA Today). I was encouraged to see on their website that in recent years they’ve switched over to a greener form of energy. They are now operating on 100% woody biomass fuel to generate electricity rather than gasoline and coal generation (McPherson Energy Corporation), a move that has reduced the impact on the environment and the surrounding community.
This move has taken a waste product and turned it into an economic good, while decreasing the environmental bad. National and community engagement is key to increasing the volume of the voices in this fight, but so is a change in the polluting practices of corporations. Carbon cap and trade, a move towards greener ways of producing energy, employing new technologies that reduce pollution and increasing the utilization of waste products will ease the conscience and raise profits of the bourgeoisie and increase the wages of the proletariat. Building and retrofitting neighborhoods So they are more energy efficient, Waste less, and are more centralized will keep the wages in the hands of community residents and out of the pockets of utility companies.