Tag Archives: oil sands

This is What Environmental Racism Looks Like

Environmental racism was one of the most surprising concepts I encountered during my undergrad. It had just never occurred to me that where and how we polluted our environment would be intentionally arranged to affect some racial communities more than others.

In the States there have been several famous instances of environmental racism.

After the Second World War, for example, Chicago kindly provided African American veterans the opportunity to live in a housing community built atop an abandoned landfill. After serving their country and surviving the war these veterans came home to Altgeld Gardens Homes, a community that would have significantly high cancer rates because of exposure to toxic chemicals.

Then, in the 1970s and 80s, there was the Warren County PBC Landfill case, when the state of North Carolina decided to bury soil that had been contaminated with toxic polychlorinated biphenyls in Warren Country, a community with primarily black residents and a much lower income rate than the rest of the state.

With the very likely possibility of their drinking water being contaminated by the toxic material, residents, civil rights groups, environmental leaders, and clergymen all joined together to protest the state’s decision…

…and then got arrested.

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Neil Young and the Tar Sands

On January 12, 2014 Canadian singer Neil Young spoke out against the Alberta Tar Sands on his “Honour the Treaties” tour to “raise money for the legal fight against the expansion of the Athabasca oil sands in northern Alberta and other similar projects, in Toronto.” I’ve included the video for you to see for yourself below. 


Since deciding to speak out Young has been under a considerable amount of criticism. A radio station in Fort McMurray has responded with a “No Neil” day. They’ve been trying to get the #notawasteland hashtag trending on twitter and banned his music on their station. One of my favorite journalists (that’s sarcasm, FYI), Rex Murphy, insists that Young is a “man who cannot distinguish the nuclear bombing of city from a worksite [and] is plainly in need of rest and instruction.”  A spokesperson for the Canadian government responded by saying that “Even the lifestyle of a rock star relies, to some degree, on the resources developed by thousands of hard-working Canadians every day.”

I first heard about Young’s controversial statement on CBC radio as the host asked callers to respond with their opinion. The reoccurring theme coming from callers seemed to be “what does he know”. As a young person I found it especially frustrating when callers would insist that youth would now follow Young’s cause in droves, because you know us young people, we just do whatever celebrities tell us to. Continue reading