Race and Ecological Justice are Connected

They are connected in many many ways, but one of the most insidious is location. For instance, low income housing (often with higher proportions of minority residents) is often near polluted sites, large factories, and dumping.

But today I was nonetheless appalled to learn where Southern University is situated. I mean, Southern! The home of the Human Jukebox! It’s one of the flagship HBCUs, and is highlighted every year during the Grambling vs Southern football game with those amazing marching band shows.

“next to the Devil’s Swamp Superfund site and surrounded by petro-chemical plants and toxic waste sites. A slew of leaks, discharges and accidents have impacted Southern, including toxic leaking railroad tank cars, ruptured pipelines, chemical spills from tank trucks, and leaking barges on the river, making it the most adversely impacted institution of higher learning in the country.” (Source)

The Devil’s Swamp Superfund site is indeed a few miles away from campus. The site was proposed for Superfund status back in 2004, and it’s still “under investigation.” They finally held a meeting with the public about the cleanup strategy in October 2019.

And Petro Processors of Louisiana is located just next to Devil’s Swamp. According to the EPA, “PPI operated these sites as depositories for various petrochemical wastes during the 1960s and the 1970s. These operations contaminated surface soil, surface water, groundwater, air and airborne particulate matter with hazardous chemicals. The site is located over the ‘400-foot sands,’ a major drinking water aquifer.”

And yes, there’s more info out there, for anyone who isn’t sufficiently bothered by the above.

Garden Centers and Gun Stores

Governor Wolf and Mayor Kenney have designated certain businesses essential. I agree with most of their choices, like for grocery stores, laundromats, and pharmacies. I agreed when Governor Wolf deemed gun stores non-essential. But of course the NRA (the front for the gun manufacturers) had to put their considerable money muscle on it post-haste and get those stores back open! Why do people need guns right now? “To protect all the toilet paper they’re hoarding.” Boom! Wish I’d come up with that gem, but I didn’t it. I’ll credit it “anonymous” since it disparages people with violent tendencies. Not giving you guys a target.

Garden centers have been deemed non-essential, but big box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot can continue to sell ample GMO bio-cide laden plants and materials with no constraints. Meanwhile, industry-leading small businesses like Primex have been forced to shut down. And in an industry where at least 50% of revenue comes in April, May, and June, I worry that the small businesses will not recover.

If garden centers are non-essential, allow no stores to sell garden products.

Garden centers sell food-bearing plants! Apparently, food is only essential if someone else grows it, picks it, ships it, and puts it on a shelf for you.

If our primary intention is to prevent greater spread of COVID-19 by preventing non-essential activities, we should be doing a much better job of defining said activities. And not cave to rich companies who have too much power and money already.