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Global Environmental Injustice From Houston’s Ship Channel

August 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Barge on Buffalo Bayou, hauling scrap metal to China (probably). This facility is one of many operations in and around the community of Magnolia. No zoning, poor environmental enforcement, and increased environmental health burdens characterize the challenges Magnolia residents face daily. The picture upends common views of global environmental injustice – trading trash has local environmental consequences, not just global ones outside the US. A similar story of corporate profiteering in the global trash trade, local politics, and its political consequences is Julie Sze’s book Noxious New York: Racial Politics of Urban Health and Environmental Justice (2006, MIT Press). I also recommend Pellow’s book Resisting Toxic Trading (2007, MIT Press) as a complement to Sze’s book.

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Witness

April 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Justice is complex, multi-dimensional, and contested.  Whether one steps behind Rawl’s “veil of ignorance” or estimates costs and benefits with the utilitarian calculator, justice rises as an aspiration.  Another view of justice pivots on recognition.  That is, the act of seeing legitimacy in others’ claim, experience, or standing as the first step in addressing unequal distribution of social goods.  But even before that, there is another act necessary for recognition.  It is the act of bearing witness.  To witness is to see without power; testify without act. It is the simple, yet fundamental, step toward justice that we all have to take.  While I see injustice, I may not be in a position to change it.  But nonetheless, to witness offers a move ahead toward our aspirations.  Documentaries, poetry, photographs in some way or another bear witness.  Reflections on the photographs and comments from students after the field trip clearly demonstrate that we have moved one step closer to justice.

Juan Parras, TEJAS, 31 April 2011. (Photo Kristin McNabb)

 

Metal crushing facility in Magnolia community, Houston, 31 March 2011 (Photo: Brittany Sikorski)

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