Good Neighbors

September 4, 2007
Posted by Jay Livingston

Where can we put this terrific little toxic waste dump?

Sunday’s New York Times Magazine had a short article reminding us that poisonous facilities --power plants, waste-transfer stations, truck fleets, refineries – usually get put in poor neighborhoods. Poor people pay the price with their health.

Conservative, individual-based explanations of poverty often blame the poor for their condition. Those people don’t work hard enough, don’t get enough education, aren’t smart enough, spend their money foolishly, have too many kids, don’t stay married, and so on. Some explanations blame the victims for their poor health as well. If only they’d practice good health habits, eat the right foods, etc.

It’s hard to see how conservatives can apply this logic to environmentally caused diseases like lead poisoning. But they try.
“It’s neither possible nor desirable in a free society to have all groups living equally close to everything — be it libraries or landfills,” argues Michael Steinberg, a Washington lawyer with clients in the chemical industry.” The mere fact of disparate impact, he says, is not evidence of intentional discrimination in the placement of polluting facilities — it’s just economics.
See, it’s economics. Polluters choose the cheapest locations. So if a polluter puts a waste dump next door, don’t blame the polluter; blame yourself for not having the money to move to a better neighborhood.

No comments: