We recommend using this intriguing article about an impoverished shantytown in Buenos Aires that has been horribly polluted by a Shell oil refinery: “Amidst Garbage and Poison: An Essay on Polluted Peoples and Places” by Javier Auyero and Debora Swistun (Contexts Spring 2007)
To discover how the children of this town feel about living in such a place, the authors give children disposable cameras with the instruction of photographing places and things they consider ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in the town. The article also poses the question of what responsibility corporations have to the people whose towns they pollute or destroy.
This article would work well in a lesson on inequality, environmental racism, corporate ethics, capitalism or methodologies. Use the questions and/or the activity below to get a discussion started on this topic:
1) How did it make you feel to learn about how the people in Flammable live? What do you think could be done to improve their situation?
2) Describe how capitalism in the U.S. affects people in Flammable. Do you think that Shell-Capsa has a responsibility to the people of Flammable? Why or why not?
3) Research and define the terms “environmental justice” and “environmental racism.” How do they relate to the case of Flammable?
ACTIVITY: Take three photographs of sites in your neighborhood or city that you think exemplify environmental inequality and share them with the class. Why did you choose these sites and what do you think they say about your city?