To cut costs, the city of Flint, Michigan moved its residents from the Detroit city water system to water sourced from the Flint River. It was a temporary fix until Flint could access Great Lakes water directly. Now, as the world knows, there’s something in the water: lead. In Flint, more than 40% of residents live below the poverty line, and the high lead levels (10 times higher than originally estimated) have caused skin lesions, hair loss, vision loss, memory loss, depression and anxiety, and Legionnaires’ disease. According to sociologists, it’s no fluke that a disenfranchised community pays the ultimate price for environmental damage.
Nature is a battleground where the privileges of wealth and whiteness prevail. Race and class inequalities perpetuate practices that harm the environment, and the poor, immigrants, and minorities are most likely to live in areas with environmental damage (some 60% of African Americans and Latino/a people live in in places with uncontrolled toxic waste sites). This is largely due to the ways that bureaucracies and the state exercise power over resources in a capitalist economy. Flint, MI is just one of many examples of wealthy governments and corporations exporting hazardous material to poor communities of color.
- David Naguib Pellow. 2007. Resisting Global Toxics: Transnational Movements for Environmental Justice. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
- Murray Bookchin. 2005 The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy. Oakland, CA: AK Press.
- Greta Gaard. 2004. “Toward a Queer Ecofeminism.” In New Perspectives on Environmental Justice: Gender, Sexuality, and Activism, ed. R. Stein, pp.21-44. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press.
- James William Gibson. 2009. A Reenchanted World: The Quest for a New Kinship with Nature. New York: Henry Holt.
- Riley E. Dunlap and William R. Catton, Jr. 1979. “Environmental Sociology,” Annual Review of Sociology (5): 243-273.