Tag Archives: environmental racism

Yahweh's Blue Yonder: SeaWorld Woes

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

A new year means it’s time for a new series! For me, 2015 will be a year of environtmental theology- from an Anablacktivist perspective! As such, each month will have a different theme. For January?:

 

That’s right- we’re headed to SeaWorld! The world of adventure highly sought after by lovers of marine life. But even a cursory glance at the news lately ought to let you know that there’s trouble in paradise…

Since 2013, there’s been news report after news report of attendance sharply falling and the most recent article detailing a 5% drop in the SeWorld (SEAS) stock- pushing the current CEO to resign! (OH NO! NOT THE STOCK MARKET!!).. An article posted rather recently (Nov.) on CNN(  http://money.cnn.com/2014/11/12/investing/seaworld-stock-dip/) goes in to detail as to how this may be attributed to a drop in attendance and this corresponding drop in attendance may be attributed to an ambitious piece of documentary material entitled ‘BlackFish’.

The interesting thing about ‘Blackfish’ is that it is classified by some as a ‘psychological docudrama’-  it essentially details Tilikum ( the killer whale made famous by both his fatal attack of the SeaWorld trainer) and his gradual descent into the insanity that lead him to the attack/retaliation. I highly recommend you watch it – it’s on Netflix afterall!! I will be making quite a few references and using plenty of data and facts from the film.

Especially from an AnaBlacktivist perspective, I believe it was the great James H. Cone who stated that blackness ( as this film’s title would imply) isn’t limited to just black people- ‘blackness’ may be a universal symbol for the oppressed in the world. How does our identity, perhaps as a black person in America or any other marginalized person in society, draw from his or her own experience to empathize with Tilikum and God’s non-human created beings. In the modern day American Empire, we’ve taken Tilikum, Shamu and the like from their home land and made them our slaves , held captive- used and abused, for our own gain. This sounds so much , too much, like the narrative of colonialism and slavery. Christ who came to set the captives free- to give us fullness of life- the life, the death, the recurrection, what could this mean for Tilikum? Stay tuned!

 

 

Demonic Strongholds & Spiritual Warfare: Ghosts of Environmental Past Part I

In continuing with this month-long series on the demonic, it would not be quite complete without considering the role of the demonic on the ecological – our oikos- our household. We are reminded in the scriptures, afterall, that Satan is the ‘Prince of the Air’, and of course this is commonly thought to mean he seems to reign in the hearts and minds of folks in this present age. Although with some shots of many cities/regions in China, it may seem the Biblical literalists have this one right

Photochemical Smog in Beijing

This series w/in a series (mini-series), will be something of a eulogy to pay an ode to some of history’s most tragic, gut-wrenching environmental catastrophes. Environmental issues are very fascinating because they’re almost like external, non-human proxies that attest to the brokenness of humanity and of creation at large.

So Today’s Ghost of Environmental Past takes us to Minamata Bay:

The Minamata Bay Disease/Disaster was a case of  left-over waste pollutant from a fetilizer production company being carelessly dumped into the Minamata Bay. Amongst the most toxic ingredients in this sludge was mercury- which is a neuro-toxin to humans. Once dumped in the bay, it was methylized by biota in the water body and traveled up the food chain (and as it did, the concentration increased) all the way to the fish that were consumed by locals there. Upon consumption, people were exposed and myriad symptoms associated with mercury poisoning in humans started showing: convulsions,seizures, complete loss of mental faculty  and otherwise deterioration of brain cells.  Infant deformities and crippling resulted also.

Christ says to mourn with those who mourn; this is clearly more of an emphasis on the present, but I believe that in decolonizing creation and destroying barriers we really ought to get to know the past tragedies of our neighbors. The Minamata Bay Disaster ( as with many issues we’ll cover) happen as a result of global “development” being the standard set by the economy. Japan, like many, were forced to forsake externalities and produce to remain competitive.

Til next time…

Environmental Justice Pulse: Alabama Coal Ash dump

 

With this post shall initiate a series I’m starting called “Environmental Justice Pulse”! As the title would suggest, this series will be about the many instances where communities of color/low-income communities are pitted against hegemonic corporate/city-planning entities for the sake of capital gain. A basic macro/micro-economics course teaches us that more often than not, the environment – what occurs to our water, air,soil and our people that live on it- are often after-thoughts ,external to the economic decision making processes for the sake of profits or “economic development” – “externalities”.

A big reason for my choosing to do this is to push back against the mainstream environmental activists in what I’ve come to see as their own hegemony: white, liberal, anti-Christian, agnosto-atheist, priviledged-yet-denying-it, and in many ways anti-black. Going through college – especially a liberal , PWI majoring in ENVIRONMENTAL studies, I’ve gotten a heavy dose of all of this rhetoric. This combined with the common notion that “blacks don’t care about the environment” was quite disconcerting for a while to me. But what I’ve realized over time is that blacks DO care about the environment, just differently and ultimately more holistically. At risk of repeating what I’ve already written in my post, “Do Blacks really care!?” , it’s essentially more about starting where you are and becoming attuned to that which is immediate to you – a long-term committment to living with the Earth as opposed to just targetting (almsot exclusively)climate change through bombastic , short-sighted and ultimately ineffective instances  of environmental advocacy.

Speaking of living with the environment – today’s EJ Pulse comes out of Uniontown Ala.! The article, which may be read here.

essentially tells of the citing of a coal-ash waste landfill near a poor, predominantly black community. It turns out, the coal ash being transported near this community comes from a plant in Tennessee and is the result of a disaster that occured there -hundreds of miles away from Uniontown ! So , essentially waste coal ash- which is incredibly toxic- is being placed near a community as a result of a disaster they had nothing to do with – talk about EXTERNALity..

Furthermore, it is stated that “Residents have reported headaches, dizziness, rashes, nausea and vomiting, symptoms they believe are related to the coal ash at the site”

The article also states the tension between a local activist who has allegedly reported arsenic ( a toxic component of coal ash- in addition to mercury) in water at incredibly high levels. A professional with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management who has been operating moniorting wells just outside of the landfill ( to ensure groundwater quality integrity) says he has yet to have seen this.

There are numerous instances in environmental justice history where industry has clearly done communities wrong and regulatory officials set up “monitoring” schema to ensure the protection of some environmental media- as if this washes away the sins of these industries against the burdened community lying in the trenches of poisoned watersways, airways, and soil. As Matthew Baca, a lawyer for Earth Justice states, “There’s a real question of why the landfill was put there in the first place, in this community that’s predominantly poor and African-American,” . We can complicate the issue further with legal jargon and monitoring schemes but at the end of the day this goes back to the famous three words of real estate- “location, location, location” , and when it comes to the citing of environmentally harmful nuisances/stressors that degrade at a community’s quality of life, it seems the three criteria are often, “Black, poor, helpless”:

“We’re a small group, we’re poor, and we’re black, so no one is going to help us,” said Ben Eaton, a 55-year-old retired schoolteacher who lives a few miles away from the facility. “People here just learn to accept whatever happens.”

This hopelessness characterizes many black neighborhoods that have been burdened by such instances of environmental negligence. When this is the case, your biggest environmental issue worth rallying for may not be protecting pristine forests or global climate change, but threats within your own community that cripple your way of life. Yet, these typically aren’t the sorts of issues we see young white (hipster) liberals fighting for on the front lines. When they are all worn out rallying, they have the luxury, more often-then-not of coming home to a nice, comfortable home in a neighborhood that’s probably not near toxic dumps and having adverse affects on their health. Such cases as presented in this article may not be the more “glamorous” environmental issues, but I believe this is where true environmentalism starts- it starts with identifying with those whose habitat has essentially been rendered a deep , dark trench- not worthy of pride of love.