USP 515 Session 5 Notes

Session Five: The Politics of Pollution

In this session we will discuss how decisions about the location and distribution of environmental benefits and hazards are made, under what institutional conditions these decision are made, who makes these decisions, and who benefits and does not benefit from these decisions. We will address the following questions:

  1. What do Davies and Davies mean when they use the term “politics of pollution’?
    1. Silent spring generation
      1. All the invisible pollution and chemicals that are piling up in the environment
      2. Made many predictions which came true from decrease in fertility to increase in allergies, etc.
    2. The central claim of this piece is that the interdisciplinary scientific study of pollution is not based on science. The standards used to study pollution are not scientific, they’re political. The standards are arbitrary.
      1. In Flint Michigan, the government just changed the official dangerous level of lead contamination to hide the danger the community was facing.
      2. How does the decision get made about what levels of pollution are harmful?
  2. Why did Bullard write an article extending the concept of the politics of pollution to the Black community specifically?
    1. Analysis of politics of pollution reveals that environmental injustice always results in marginalized communities bearing the brunt of the harms
      1. Systemic racism is the mechanism
  3. What do these articles help us understand about the relationship between income, race, and health?
    1. How do we deal with the politics of pollution
      1. Education – inform both impacted and non-impacted communities about the issues
      2. Engagement with impacted communities
      3. Representation – giving impacted communities power
      4. Reduce pollution
      5. Change the way we extract, distribute, manufacture, distribute, consume, waste services and goods.
      6. Producer responsibility
      7. We need leaders who come from impacted communities -> one claim of the Bullard article

Other Notes

  1. Gentrification is when privileged people come into a neighborhood and take resources like housing and food from marginalized people, leading to an increase in costs and a drop in access for marginalized people.
    1. This leads to a cultural changes through settler colonialism; displacing and exterminating populations and cultures.
      1. Alex Nieto: White dog walkers new to Burnal called the police on a person of color who grew up there and was eating a burrito. The police murdered him.
      2. White people complain about long-standing cultural aspects of neighborhoods like live music.
      3. White tech bros in the Mission demanding locking gates and reservation systems for the use of public parks.
      4. Essentially all public housing was eventually demolished. About 10% of it was replaced with nonprofit housing.
  2. Bottled water is unregulated.
    1. People in marginalized communities are more likely to drink bottled water and therefore be exposed to toxins in unregulated bottled water products

ASSIGNED READING FOR SESSION FIVE (click on session 5 on left to access reading) 

  1. The Politics of Pollution — Davies and Davies
    1. Since a lower value is placed on marginalized communities, society chooses to move harms and risks there.
    2. Wealthy and powerful white communities are given priority with pollution mitigation efforts.
    3. Industry likewise disposes of wastes where it’s easiest and cheapest, disparately impacting marginalized communities with the externalities of toxic industrial biproducts.
  2. The Politics of Pollution: Implications for the Black Community — Bullard and Wright
    1. Historically the black community was very engaged with the civil rights movement at the time when the environmental movement was coalescing
    2. Ongoing segregation in cities plus the legacy of slavery and redlining has led to high concentrations of black populations in small areas in urban centers.
    3. Lots of evidence that marginalized urban communities are more likely to be exposed to environmental harms.
    4. Black communities have less power to make changes in cities because wealth and power are concentrated in the same white neighborhoods which consistently vote to move harms to black neighborhoods.
    5. Paradigm
      1. Science is not based on fact
      2. Science is based on interpretation by the most privileged members of society