Recently in 9: Environmental Justice (Nov 1) Category

keep your eye out...

This was reported by Democracynow.org November 29th (yesterday).

Just wanted to share...

BP Sued in Ecuadorian Court For Violating Rights of Nature
A coalition of environmentalists have filed a groundbreaking lawsuit in Ecuador against the oil giant BP for violating Ecuador's constitution which recognizes "the rights of Nature" across the globe. Plaintiffs include Nnimmo Bassey, the president of Friends of the Earth International and the Indian scientist Vandana Shiva.

Vandana Shiva: "This morning we filed in the constitutional court of Ecuador this lawsuit defending the rights of nature in particular the right of the Gulf of Mexico and the sea which has been violated by the BP oil spill. We see this as a test case of the rights of nature enshrined in the constitution of Ecuador--it's about universal jurisdiction beyond the boundaries of Ecuador because nature has rights everywhere."

Scientists Fight Back!

Climate scientists plan campaign against global warming skeptics

The American Geophysical Union plans to announce that 700 researchers have agreed to speak out on the issue. Other scientists plan a pushback against congressional conservatives who have vowed to kill regulations on greenhouse gas emissions.

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"This group feels strongly that science and politics can't be divorced and that we need to take bold measures to not only communicate science but also to aggressively engage the denialists and politicians who attack climate science and its scientists," said Scott Mandia, professor of physical sciences at Suffolk County Community College in New York.

"We are taking the fight to them because we are ... tired of taking the hits. The notion that truth will prevail is not working. The truth has been out there for the past two decades, and nothing has changed."

Environmental Justice

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This weeks topics have been very interesting with Environmental justice, animal testing, and Genetic engineering. Although all presentations presented an abundance of information and very valid points, Environmental Justice confused me. I still don't understand the full concept of Environmental Justice. But, reading the news, the LA times ran an article about the San Joaquin Valley in California and the conditions of their drinking water. This area houses some of the state's poorest but they need to spend the extra money to drink and cook with bottle water because their city water is so contaminated it is undrinkable. The contamination comes from harmful nitrates, which enters from fertilizer runoff and septic tanks. Farmers started nitrogen fertilizers to boost the production of their crops. This contamination can cause a wide variety of health problems, which can be fatal. My question is, if Environmental Justice is such a topic of discussion, why aren't there government programs to help the residents of the San Joaquin Valley? Or, where is Erin Brokovich when you need her?

Hurricane Katrina as a Natural and Social Disaster

The problems of environmental racism and environmental justice in America were highly evident after Hurricane Katrina. It became easy to see how some of the environmental burdens are distributed based on race. Read more

New Orleans is 62 percent African American and two feet below sea level. Most of the people stranded after the hurricane "were poor, black, disproportionately elderly, young and old, and without private transportation," which shows how not only where these people living in a high-risk area, but they were also left out of many of the disaster plans.

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After reading this article, the part that shocked me the most was when it talked about how years before Hurricane Katrina, environmental justice activists where "anticipating the racially disproportionate effects of climate change." If we knew that a disaster like this was going to happen why wouldn't we derive an evacuation plan that incorporated the majority of the people being affected. In the case of Hurricane Katrina, the ones without there own transportation. It's unfortunate that it took a disaster like this for the majority of Americans' to realize the environmental racism that is happening in our country.
For example: It was surprising to me when in the article it talked about how southern African American communities were facing problems from toxic/chemical pollution from oil refineries. It shows that communities in the South were facing environmental racism even before the hurricane. This proves that it really did take a natural disaster for me to realize environmental racism happening in our country.
What do you think are ways to make environmental justice a more known issue without more natural disasters? Do you think Americans have learned from this situation? Why or why not? And, do you think it is possible to ever have environmental justice for everyone? Why or why not?

Chester, PA fight for justice

Chester, Pennsylvania is a city of waste disposal. Many states send their trash to Chester to be burned. Chester is populated by people of low socioeconomic status who have no say in their city's role in waste disposal. In 1996, the people of Chester began to come together to fight companies bringing trash to their city. This fight began after the people realized that the health of the citizens of Chester was being negatively effected. Health problems and cancer were increasing in the people of Chester and they were sure that it was because of the nearby waste incinerators that burn 2688 tons of trash per day. Chester's fight began with simple protests of standing in the way of the trash trucks as they drove into town. The people soon realized this was not enough. As citizens became more aware, they became more frustrated. They became aware that these large companies picked Chester as a waste management center because of its low economic status. As the woman states at 2:10 in the video, "...because we're black, we're poor, low economics, low jobs, they think this is the ideal place." These facilities provide jobs but are costing the community its health. This brings up the topic of environmental racism and how it is completely unjust for these people's health to be put at risk just because they are of low status in our society.Chester created the Chester Residents Concerns for Quality Living to raise awareness and build strength in the community. But the citizens are having little luck in improving their quality of live against these big companies. Not only are the incinerators still burning today but plans for new incinerators for new materials such as tires are in the works. But the people of Chester continue to fight and raise awareness. They created the DelCo Alliance for Environmental Justice.They are determined to make their voices heard and to fight for their lives to be recognized as significant. This is a very sad case of the government using its power over low socioeconomic status people for its own purposes. The government knew that this city needed new jobs created. It knew that if it were to place hazardous facilities in this town, the people would not have enough knowledge, power, or organization to fight it. What needs to be done so that this does not continue happening to towns like Chester?

*Important Feedback Re: First Week of Presentations*

After completing our first week of ethics presentations, I want to make sure our class keeps a few things in mind, in order to move forward more productively:

All of the topics selected are contentious, and this is precisely the point: from day one of this course, we've discussed how science is an ever-evolving dialogue, an imperfect process in a quest for greater understandings of our shared world.

These presentations discuss a wide range of topics from many perspectives. While some of you have chosen to present "pros," "cons," and "neutrals" of a subject, we have to remember that the benefits and drawbacks of a particular topic should not be conflated with whether you're "for" or "against" it. When we make simplistic conclusions about an issue, we not only create unnecessary polarization, but we also foreclose the possibility for other insights to be revealed. The truth is, there are positives and negatives to most things in life, but ethical concerns are raised in science when we weigh questions of power:
...Who has the ability to control a scientific process and why? Who will benefit and who won't?
...What, exactly, makes this topic so contentious to some? What fears, anxieties, traditions, ideologies, does it uphold or threaten?
...What kinds of relationships should we demand between science and academies, industries, and governments?
...And though it will always be imperfect, impartial, and finite, how can we create BETTER ways of practicing science, science that promotes more livable ways of relating across the spectrum of races, genders, species, etc. for generations to come?

Finally, a note of caution on creating a classroom climate conducive to healthy debate, for there have been moments when productive questions have been shut down. Once we understand that:
...no topic presented is "bad" or "good,"
...that the point of these exercises is NOT to reach a final conclusion or resolve the debate,
...and that multiple considerations, in multiple contexts, must be weighed in order to grasp these complex issues,
we can move forward as a class asking more questions, becoming more aware and critical knowers, consumers, voters, and researchers, and creating a space where varying viewpoints can be aired. Remember, if critiques are raised, they can be harnessed to develop better ways of employing whatever scientific development we're considering, making it more effective, more sustainable, and more liberatory.

These presentations are meant to inform our class on important topics that may be brand new to some. But more importantly, they are meant to showcase ethical dilemmas. Keep this in mind, whether you present in the upcoming classes or listen as an active audience member. What larger concerns do these topics raise, especially within a context of feminist science?

Environmental Sexism?

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I saw an article on the blog "Feministing" that made me immediately think of the environmental justice presentation on Monday. The group talked about environmental racism and about how even though large corporations put their toxic waste in the backyards of the neighborhoods of the poor or people of color or both, the resulting health effects are often blamed on the population. For instance, the group mentioned the case of Point Hope, Alaska where Native peoples were subjected to radiation and the resulting cancer was blamed on the community's tobacco use. The article I found in Feministing is related and involves a phenomenon we can perhaps label as "environmental sexism." The blog entry, found here, discusses a study that proves that women are not to blame for the increase of estrogen in our water supply. I have heard before, as I sure others have, that the estrogen secreted in urine from women who take/use certain hormonal birth control methods is causing problems in the environment and estrogen in the water has been linked to fertility problems and cancer in humans. However, the study at University of California San Francisco found that less than 1% of the estrogen in our water supply can be linked to birth control. Here's an article about the study in Chemical and Engineering News, if you feel Feministing might be a bit bias. The study also found that the estrogen pollution can be linked to farm runoff and landfills, it has nothing to do with women who use birth control.

So my questions are: Why do we blame low income neighborhoods, women, and people of color for our environmental pollution instead of looking to the real culprit? Is the blaming of women for estrogen pollution just another ploy against the use of birth control?

Paul Hawken (as mentioned in class)

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Paul Hawken was brought up in today's Environmental Justice presentation. I tried to explain his book "Blessed Unrest", but in case I failed to convey his amazingness I wanted to post these. Some ideas of his that resonate with me are:

'democracy and evolution work better than command and control'

'a movement based on ideas, not ideologies.'

'ideologies constrain and dictate'

'dispersing the pathological concentrations of power'




Thoughts? Insightful? Realistic? Is emphasis on smaller projects and initiatives harmful or helpful? What if they amount, as Hawken claims, to over 1 million organizations?

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