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145 seven Housewives from Hell Perspectives on Environmental Justice and Facility Siting michele morrone and wren kruse On the river he watched barges and a towboat pass, engines droning. It was pushing coal. Once the boat was gone the air got quiet and the water was slow and muddy and the forests ran down to the edge and it could have been anywhere, the Amazon, a picture from National Geographic. A bluegill jumped in the shallows—you weren’t supposed to eat the fish but everyone did. Mercury and PCB. He couldn’t remember what the letters stood for but it was poison. Philipp Meyer, American Rust M o t h e r s w i l l d o w h a t e v e r i t t a k e s t o p r o t e c t their children and most won’t stand for unfair treatment in any aspect of their children’s lives. The combination of protectionism and demand for justice makes women in general, and mothers in specific, a group of environmental activists to reckon with. In the realm of environmental justice, the health of children is often the first thing that comes to mind. Today’s children may not only suffer disproportionate impacts of environmental harms now, but they may be forced to live with the consequences for the rest of their lives. Michele Morrone and Wren Kruse 146 Children who grow up in Appalachia are in the midst of some of the largest coal-fired power plants in the country. In addition to sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and airborne fine particles, these power plants send millions of pounds of mercury and other heavy metals into the local environment. However, coal is not the only source of mercury that families in the region are dealing with. Appalachia is home to numerous industries, including massive chemical facilities that manufacture products ranging from Teflon to pesticides .All these operations may employ local people as they are creating global products, however, they are also creating local environmental impacts that have frightened many women into action to protect their own health and the health of their communities. How the poor communities in rural Appalachia became home to so many hazardous facilities that make products used worldwide is one basis of the discussion about environmental justice in the region. Many of these industries targeted Appalachia and other rural regions because it is good for their bottom line. Because poverty is pervasive in Appalachia, there is a labor force that is willing to take almost any good-paying job that comes along despite the risks. In addition, land is cheap and many rural communities are so desperate for economic development that tax incentives are used to lure businesses into the region. The Appalachian Regional Commission noted,“It is well known that the nation’s rural manufacturing economy was largely seeded by branch plants seeking lower operating costs and contains many firms that suffer from isolation and less sophisticated management.”1 The less sophisticated management contributed to industrial operations that peppered the Appalachian region with damaged ecosystems, hazardousand radioactive-waste facilities, abandoned mines, and air pollution levels that rival major cities. Similar to coal mining, there is no doubt that industry and manufacturing created short-term and concentrated economic gains in Appalachia . Good-paying factory jobs were available for a time, but a large percentage of them have evaporated because of global competition and the worldwide economic recession. Appalachian residents now face some of the highest unemployment in the country.2 High unemployment combined with severe environmental contamination have led some residents of the region to question the justice in this situation, and women are among the leading questioners. Research is beginning to point to environmental contamination as playing a role in health disparities in Appalachia.3 However, even if data do not suggest that people are being treated differently or that health disparities exist, the perceptions of Appalachians are important indicators of environmental Perspectives on Environmental Justice and Facility Siting 147 injustice. The best way to get a sense of whether environmental justice is an issue in a specific area is to ask those who live there.This is what we did when we interviewed six environmental activists who have long histories of working to improve their communities and protect their children.There are emotional burdens that can be as significant as documented health disparities, especially when it comes to protecting children. Save the Children...


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