Monday, 19th october 2020 | History
Marco Arezio - Consulente materie plastiche - Denial and Environmental Racism: The American Models

History has taught us how black communities have been used to repair some environmental disasters

Wars, as we know, always cause many deaths, but the tools to fight them do not always contemplate weapons. Finance and industry use less egregious and noisy tools to sometimes achieve the same loss of life.

It all started in 1982, when an electrical transformer manufacturer decided to dispose of its

PCB-composed waste, which caused various forms of cancer in the population in an area of 300 km. around the company.

When the scandal emerged, the state of North Carolina had to clean up the area and choose a place to place hazardous waste. The area chosen was Warren, a small African-American community, precisely because of the skin color of its inhabitants and the low standard of living, peasants probably from low schooling, which made it presume the unconditional acceptance of dangerous waste.

But what is PCB?

PCBs are a mixture of different isomers, insoluble in water, which are used in oils and used in large capacitors and electrical transformers, due to their high resistance to high temperatures and as electric insulators.

Their toxicity was studied, due to the increase in cases of rashes, blood diseases and liver cancer, in some industrial areas where PBC was used.

Despite the 1970s, this type of chemical fluid has progressively gone out of production due to high toxicity, the incident that happened in Warren, beyond the health problems found, brought out a protest movement that emphasized the use of environmental racism to solve ecology problems.

Despite public outcry and the lawsuit filed, the site was only decontaminated in 2000 and the lawsuit ended in no action.

In Warren County, near the landfill, they lived until 78 African-Americans, and the violation of the right to their health gave rise to the environmental justice movement, which aimed not only to combat the sources of industrial pollution and landfills, but also to aim to defend the African-American population

from pressure to relocate polluting productions and hazardous waste to the areas where they lived, without involving them in their choices.

The movement took on political value and sought to analyze the reasons and implications that decisions to install dangerous landfills and productions would bring to the black population.

In 1987, the study ToxicWaste and Race in the United States,carried out by the black progressive Church of Christ, had highlighted that race was the main factor of choice for the location of a dangerous landfill, as happened to Warren, thus talking about ecological racism.

The racial issue was probably not felt within traditional environmental movements, such as the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, the Wilderness Society, the WWF, and the Environmental Defense Fund, which, in those years, hardly tolerated proximity to black environmental movements, so much so that they often deserted their protest marches.

We must not, however, think that the problem of environmental racism is confined only to the United States, but it is also expressed in Great Britain and France, where not only the colour of the skin was the derogatory fact, but the social classes and economic conditions of the residents.

Greg Gibson/AP Photo

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