- Series: Sacrifice Zones
- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: The MIT Press; First Edition edition (July 30, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0262014408
- ISBN-13: 978-0262014403
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,591,242 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Sacrifice Zones: The Front Lines of Toxic Chemical Exposure in the United States First Edition Edition
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This book will break your heart. Lerner, who plumbed the depths of Louisiana’s suffering in Diamond (2005), focuses on how 12 American communities are affected by their close proximity to polluted industrial sites. The facts speak for themselves as he recounts data collected in legal cases and interviews with dozens of people from each locale, and you cannot help but become emotionally involved in each outcome. The clear message is that low-income neighborhoods (the “sacrifice zones” of the title) suffer disproportionately from industrial toxins, and it is hard to argue the point after reading about what everyone from Exxon Mobil to the Department of Defense (ironically the biggest polluter in America) has done to its residential neighbors. In most cases residents do not want industry to go away, they want it to abide by existing regulations and for regulators to do their jobs. This is the heart-breaking part, because Lerner exposes just how easily rules are ignored. One might want this book to be easy to ignore, but instead, it’s unforgettable. And devastating. --Colleen Mondor
"A significant complement to three decades of environmental justice research; it provides irrefutable empirical evidence that not all American communities are created equal." Robert D. Bullard Environmental Health Perspectives
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"Sacrifice Zones" brings stories like that back home --- to a dozen communities that were knowingly polluted by American businesses. It's a repetitive book: suffering, more suffering, government indifference, then the residents fight back. It's hardly an even fight. The companies have squads of lawyers on staff. Because they often provide the only jobs for miles, they have local governments in their pockets. It's oh-so-hard to prove that the filth on the once-white sheets hanging from the clotheslines of the poor came from a polluter's smokestack. And the victories are bittersweet --- activists don't always see the fruits of their work, having used precious days from their surely shortened lives to organize their communities.
Ocala, Florida: "black snow" from a charcoal factory. A city run by five white people. Activists who presented filthy bed sheets to the city council. A plant without afterburners in its smokestacks. The company closed the plant and tore down the smokestacks before they could be tested for pollutants.
Port Arthur, Texas: 15.5 million pounds of pollutants released in a single year by a refinery owned by Shell Oil and Saudi Aramco. (Once the plant released 9 tons while children were waiting for school buses.)
On and on the dishonor roll goes --- Addyston, Ohio and Daly City, California and San Antonio and Greenpoint, New York. You get the idea fast.
And, if you're me, you ask yourself: Who really needs to read this book?
Well, how about the villains? That is, the corporations that target and then pollute minorities and the poor. Steve Lerner isn't shy about naming them. Often, he identifies their spokespeople.
But no way are the bad guys going to spring for this book. The record is voluminous --- they don't care.
I have a thought: Buy the book. Read as much as you can stand, then send it on to the CEO of the biggest polluter you know. Maybe with a cheery note: "Looking forward to reading about your company in the next edition."