Garbage Wars: The Struggle for Environmental Justice in Chicago

MIT Press
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A study of the struggle for environmental justice, focusing on conflicts over solid waste and pollution in Chicago.

In Garbage Wars, the sociologist David Pellow describes the politics of garbage in Chicago. He shows how garbage affects residents in vulnerable communities and poses health risks to those who dispose of it. He follows the trash, the pollution, the hazards, and the people who encountered them in the period 1880-2000. What unfolds is a tug of war among social movements, government, and industry over how we manage our waste, who benefits, and who pays the costs.

Studies demonstrate that minority and low-income communities bear a disproportionate burden of environmental hazards. Pellow analyzes how and why environmental inequalities are created. He also explains how class and racial politics have influenced the waste industry throughout the history of Chicago and the United States. After examining the roles of social movements and workers in defining, resisting, and shaping garbage disposal in the United States, he concludes that some environmental groups and people of color have actually contributed to environmental inequality.

By highlighting conflicts over waste dumping, incineration, landfills, and recycling, Pellow provides a historical view of the garbage industry throughout the life cycle of waste. Although his focus is on Chicago, he places the trends and conflicts in a broader context, describing how communities throughout the United States have resisted the waste industry's efforts to locate hazardous facilities in their backyards. The book closes with suggestions for how communities can work more effectively for environmental justice and safe, sustainable waste management.

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About the author

David Naguib Pellow is Don A. Martindale Endowed Chair in Sociology at the University of Minnesota. Among his books are the award-winning Garbage Wars: The Struggle for Environmental Justice in Chicago (MIT Press, 2002) and Power, Justice, and the Environment: A Critical Appraisal of the Environmental Justice Movement (coedited with Robert Brulle; MIT Press, 2005.)

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Additional Information

Publisher
MIT Press
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Published on
Sep 17, 2004
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Pages
254
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ISBN
9780262250290
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Language
English
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Genres
Nature / Environmental Conservation & Protection
Political Science / Political Process / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Your garbage is going places you’d never imagine. What used to be sent to the local dump now may move hundreds of miles by truck and barge to its final resting place. Virtually all forms of pollution migrate, subjected to natural forces such as wind and water currents. The movement of garbage, however, is under human control. Its patterns of migration reveal much about power sharing among state, local, and national institutions, about the Constitution’s protection of trash transport as a commercial activity, and about competing notions of social fairness. In Garbage In, Garbage Out, Vivian Thomson looks at Virginia’s status as the second-largest importer of trash in the United States and uses it as a touchstone for exploring the many controversies around trash generation and disposal.

Political conflicts over waste management have been felt at all levels of government. Local governments who want to manage their own trash have fought other local governments hosting huge landfills that depend on trash generated hundreds of miles away. State governments have tried to avoid becoming the dumping grounds for cities hundreds of miles away. The constitutional questions raised in these battles have kept interstate trash transport on Congress’s agenda since the early 1990s. Whether the resulting legislative proposals actually address our most critical garbage-related problems, however, remains in question.

Thomson sheds much-needed light on these problems. Within the context of increased interstate trash transport and the trend toward privatization of waste management, she examines the garbage issue from a number of perspectives--including the links between environmental justice and trash management, a critical evaluation of the theoretical and empirical relationship between economic growth and environmental improvement, and highlighting the ways in which waste management practices in the US differ from those in the European Union and Japan. Thomson then provides specific, substantive recommendations for our own policymakers.

Everything eventually becomes trash. As we explore the long, often surprising, routes our garbage takes, we begin to understand that it is something more than a mere nuisance that regularly "disappears" from our curbside. Rather, trash generation and management reflect patterns of consumption, political choices over whether garbage is primarily pollution or commerce, the social distribution of environmental risk, and how our daily lives compare with those of our counterparts in other industrialized nations.

When in 2001 Earth Liberation Front activists drove metal spikes into hundreds of trees in Gifford Pinchot National Forest, they were protesting the sale of a section of the old-growth forest to a timber company. But ELF’s communiqué on the action went beyond the radical group’s customary brief. Drawing connections between the harms facing the myriad animals who make their home in the trees and the struggles for social justice among ordinary human beings resisting exclusion and marginalization, the dispatch declared, “all oppression is linked, just as we are all linked,” and decried the “patriarchal nightmare” in the form of “techno-industrial global capitalism.”

In Total Liberation, David Naguib Pellow takes up this claim and makes sense of the often tense and violent relationships among humans, ecosystems, and nonhuman animal species, expanding our understanding of inequality and activists’ uncompromising efforts to oppose it. Grounded in interviews with more than one hundred activists, on-the-spot fieldwork, and analyses of thousands of pages of documents, websites, journals, and zines, Total Liberation reveals the ways in which radical environmental and animal rights movements challenge inequity through a vision they call “total liberation.” In its encounters with such infamous activists as scott crow, Tre Arrow, Lauren Regan, Rod Coronado, and Gina Lynn, the book offers a close-up, insider’s view of one of the most important—and feared—social movements of our day. At the same time, it shows how and why the U.S. justice system plays to that fear, applying to these movements measures generally reserved for “jihadists”—with disturbing implications for civil liberties and constitutional freedom.

How do the adherents of “total liberation” fight oppression and seek justice for humans, nonhumans, and ecosystems alike? And how is this pursuit shaped by the politics of anarchism and anticapitalism? In his answers, Pellow provides crucial in-depth insight into the origins and social significance of the earth and animal liberation movements and their increasingly common and compelling critique of inequality as a threat to life and a dream of a future characterized by social and ecological justice for all.

Winner, Allan Schnaiberg Outstanding Publication Award, presented by the Environment & Technology section of the American Sociological Association

Environmentalism usually calls to mind images of peace and serenity, a oneness with nature, and a shared sense of responsibility. But one town in Colorado, under the guise of environmental protection, passed a resolution limiting immigration, bolstering the privilege of the wealthy and scapegoating Latin American newcomers for the area’s current and future ecological problems. This might have escaped attention save for the fact that this wasn’t some rinky-dink backwater. It was Aspen, Colorado, playground of the rich and famous and the West’s most elite ski town.





Tracking the lives of immigrant laborers through several years of exhaustive fieldwork and archival digging, The Slums of Aspen tells a story that brings together some of the most pressing social problems of the day: environmental crises, immigration, and social inequality. Park and Pellow demonstrate how these issues are intertwined in the everyday experiences of people who work and live in this wealthy tourist community.





Offering a new understanding of a little known class of the super-elite, of low-wage immigrants (mostly from Latin America) who have become the foundation for service and leisure in this famous resort, and of the recent history of the ski industry, Park and Pellow expose the ways in which Colorado boosters have reshaped the landscape and altered ecosystems in pursuit of profit and pleasure. Of even greater urgency, they frame how environmental degradation and immigration reform have become inextricably linked in many regions of the American West, a dynamic that interferes with the efforts of valorous environmental causes, often turning away from conservation and toward insidious racial privilege.

Examines the export of hazardous wastes to poor communities of color around the world and charts the global social movements that challenge them.

Every year, nations and corporations in the “global North” produce millions of tons of toxic waste. Too often this hazardous material—inked to high rates of illness and death and widespread ecosystem damage—is exported to poor communities of color around the world. In Resisting Global Toxics, David Naguib Pellow examines this practice and charts the emergence of transnational environmental justice movements to challenge and reverse it. Pellow argues that waste dumping across national boundaries from rich to poor communities is a form of transnational environmental inequality that reflects North/South divisions in a globalized world, and that it must be theorized in the context of race, class, nation, and environment. Building on environmental justice studies, environmental sociology, social movement theory, and race theory, and drawing on his own research, interviews, and participant observations, Pellow investigates the phenomenon of global environmental inequality and considers the work of activists, organizations, and networks resisting it. He traces the transnational waste trade from its beginnings in the 1980s to the present day, examining global garbage dumping, the toxic pesticides that are the legacy of the Green Revolution in agriculture, and today's scourge of dumping and remanufacturing high tech and electronics products. The rise of the transnational environmental movements described in Resisting Global Toxics charts a pragmatic path toward environmental justice, human rights, and sustainability.

Winner of the Lincoln Prize

Acclaimed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin illuminates Abraham Lincoln's political genius in this highly original work, as the one-term congressman and prairie lawyer rises from obscurity to prevail over three gifted rivals of national reputation to become president.

On May 18, 1860, William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, Edward Bates, and Abraham Lincoln waited in their hometowns for the results from the Republican National Convention in Chicago. When Lincoln emerged as the victor, his rivals were dismayed and angry.

Throughout the turbulent 1850s, each had energetically sought the presidency as the conflict over slavery was leading inexorably to secession and civil war. That Lincoln succeeded, Goodwin demonstrates, was the result of a character that had been forged by experiences that raised him above his more privileged and accomplished rivals. He won because he possessed an extraordinary ability to put himself in the place of other men, to experience what they were feeling, to understand their motives and desires.

It was this capacity that enabled Lincoln as president to bring his disgruntled opponents together, create the most unusual cabinet in history, and marshal their talents to the task of preserving the Union and winning the war.

We view the long, horrifying struggle from the vantage of the White House as Lincoln copes with incompetent generals, hostile congressmen, and his raucous cabinet. He overcomes these obstacles by winning the respect of his former competitors, and in the case of Seward, finds a loyal and crucial friend to see him through.

This brilliant multiple biography is centered on Lincoln's mastery of men and how it shaped the most significant presidency in the nation's history.
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