Environmental Injustice in Mon Valley

Memorial Day

Functionalist conservatism:

What’s most surprising isn’t that politicians start wars to consolidate their own power, but that the people don’t always simply assume that leaders choose war for that reason. Of course, the main calculation for politicians when making decisions is whether or not those decisions will help tighten their grip on the levers of society. From prime ministers to dictators, anyone who doesn’t think about that first and foremost will be, evolutionarily speaking, selected against, and quickly find themselves outside the palace walls.[1]

Happy Memorial Day.

Jon Schwarz, “We Need Memorial Day to Obscure the Unbearable Truth About War,” Intercept, May 29, 2019, https://theintercept.com/2017/05/29/we-need-memorial-day-to-obscure-the-unbearable-truth-about-war/


Pittsburgh

I think, if it occurs, my next move will be farther from the Monongahela River and Mon Valley and especially from the U.S. Steel plant. I’ve seen neighborhoods by the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers that seem quite nice.

Note the source of this report that U.S. Steel has repaired air pollution controls: the Wall Street Journal,[2] not a particularly environmentally friendly newspaper. What I see here is that repairs have been done. I do not know their effectiveness or even in absolute terms how safe the air now is—even the Journal headline only says “easier,” not “easy;” I picked someone up near that plant recently and it still stunk to high hell (the resuscitated air pollution controls might not yet have been switched on).

I also wonder about any decision to even allow the plant to continue operating. I don’t live in Mon Valley, but I’m close. I pick up a lot of people there. And I have to tell you, the very fact of that plant and the industrialization along the Monongahela River looks to me like an environmental justice issue, where the working class and poor, many of them Black, get to live with health and safety risks because that’s where they can afford to live or because that’s where they’ve always lived.

And lest we forget, much to my absolute horror, there are homeless people here. I can’t imagine how they survive winter. But for many, that would be the only alternative.

Kris Maher, “Pittsburgh Breathes Easier After Repairs at U.S. Steel Coke Plant,” Wall Street Journal, May 26, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/pittsburgh-breathes-easier-after-repairs-at-u-s-steel-coke-plant-11558872000


Brexit

This tweet might not translate the way it should because it lacks the context where neoliberals and nationalists (authoritarian populists) have broken off from the main parties, Republicans and Democrats, to form separate parties. But that’s the context imagined in this tweet.

At the time I looked at British Broadcasting Corporation coverage, returns were not complete. Counting had not even begun in some areas. But it seems worth noting that though Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party was the winning single party, the total tally of Remainer parties, including the (neo)Liberal Democrats and the Greens exceeded Brexit by double digits. Meanwhile, both Tories and Labour took a drubbing, with the former winning a historically low portion of the vote.[3]

Take that with a grain of salt: Final results might, but now seem unlikely to, reveal a different story. And these results have limited applicability to, for many Britons, a far more important general election. On Twitter, at least, Jeremy Corbyn has been calling for just that and Labour is now more loudly calling for a second referendum.[4] This has seemed to me foolish: I am sad to say that, just as in the U.S., it appears many Britons still subscribe to a so-called “centrist” neoliberal view on the idea that this ideology—just as hateful, really, as anything the far right can muster—constitutes a “middle road.”

British Broadcasting Corporation, “European elections 2019: Brexit Party dominates as Tories and Labour suffer,” May 27, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-48417228


Abortion

No student of women’s history should even remotely be surprised that women will network to ensure access to reproductive health.[5] Some will do so even in the face of legal impediments and the men who would control their bodies should know that the latter efforts are doomed to failure. Just as they always have been.

It should also be noted that as always, the effects of abortion bans will fall hardest on those without the wherewithal to travel. The rich can always get abortions, often even close to home. It will be the poor who are least able to travel and who will most need to travel. Class cannot be separated from gender here.

Monica Hesse, “Abortion bans have some women preparing for the worst. It involves ‘auntie networks,’” Washington Post, May 26, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/abortion-bans-have-some-women-preparing-for-the-worst-it-involves-auntie-networks/2019/05/24/4af2dcce-7d77-11e9-a5b3-34f3edf1351e_story.html


Elon Musk

Sometimes I need to say, pay no attention. The headline is misleading: There is a disagreement over tactics here but there wasn’t really a “fight” between the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system and Elon Musk[6] and I have to strongly doubt that this is one of Musk’s visions that will come to fruition.

To give an idea how Musk’s vision might fall short, I was noticing with a passenger how many roads here have been reduced to one lane in sections due to subsidence.

This happens a lot in California too and the cause of this is clear: Lots of rain and unstable mountainside and cliff geology due to erosion. My passenger pointed out that here, there are many old mining tunnels: Though this has been a wet spring here, subsidence can be a problem even without it.

In California, the rock is largely, in various forms, metamorphic. Here, it’s largely sedimentary. We don’t have the massive and dramatic geologic forces that forge California rock; sedimentation happens slowly, over time. California rock is inherently a lot stronger, structurally, than Pennsylvania rock.

That doesn’t mean tunnels can’t be built. Pittsburgh has many, many more of them than I had remembered from my limited childhood experience with the area. But I wouldn’t count on technology developed in southern California working here.

Eric Ting, “BART picks a fight with Elon Musk on Twitter over tunnels,” SFGate, May 25, 2019, https://www.sfgate.com/local/article/BART-Elon-Musk-Twitter-tunnel-Bay-Boring-Company-13896393.php


Greece

Alexis Tsipras sold out to the European Union’s austerity demands and settled a dispute with (North) Macedonia over its name so the latter country could join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union. He did everything the E.U. wanted, grudgingly at first, totally capitulating later.[7] The austerity killed people[8] and there is no better evidence of neoliberalism’s prioritization of money even over human life. The E.U. offered Tsipras no reciprocity. Functionalist Conservatives, take note and beware.

Michele Kambas, “Greek PM comes unstuck over Macedonia, austerity in European vote,” Reuters, May 27, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-eu-election-greece-idUSKCN1SX0YI


  1. [1]Jon Schwarz, “We Need Memorial Day to Obscure the Unbearable Truth About War,” Intercept, May 29, 2019, https://theintercept.com/2017/05/29/we-need-memorial-day-to-obscure-the-unbearable-truth-about-war/
  2. [2]Kris Maher, “Pittsburgh Breathes Easier After Repairs at U.S. Steel Coke Plant,” Wall Street Journal, May 26, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/pittsburgh-breathes-easier-after-repairs-at-u-s-steel-coke-plant-11558872000
  3. [3]British Broadcasting Corporation, “European elections 2019: Brexit Party dominates as Tories and Labour suffer,” May 27, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-48417228
  4. [4]British Broadcasting Corporation, “European elections 2019: Brexit Party dominates as Tories and Labour suffer,” May 27, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-48417228
  5. [5]Monica Hesse, “Abortion bans have some women preparing for the worst. It involves ‘auntie networks,’” Washington Post, May 26, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/abortion-bans-have-some-women-preparing-for-the-worst-it-involves-auntie-networks/2019/05/24/4af2dcce-7d77-11e9-a5b3-34f3edf1351e_story.html
  6. [6]Eric Ting, “BART picks a fight with Elon Musk on Twitter over tunnels,” SFGate, May 25, 2019, https://www.sfgate.com/local/article/BART-Elon-Musk-Twitter-tunnel-Bay-Boring-Company-13896393.php
  7. [7]Michele Kambas, “Greek PM comes unstuck over Macedonia, austerity in European vote,” Reuters, May 27, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-eu-election-greece-idUSKCN1SX0YI
  8. [8]Nikolia Apostolou, “Athens suicide: a cry for dignity from downtrodden,” Christian Science Monitor, April 5, 2012, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2012/0405/Athens-suicide-a-cry-for-dignity-from-downtrodden-video; Democracy Now! “General Strike Sweeps Europe as Millions Reject Austerity as Solution to Economic Crisis,” November 14, 2012, http://www.democracynow.org/2012/11/14/general_strike_sweeps_europe_as_millions; Deutschewelle, “Pensioner’s suicide triggers Greek austerity protests,” April 5, 2012, http://www.dw.de/pensioners-suicide-triggers-greek-austerity-protests/a-15860196; Teo Kermeliotis, “Austerity drives up suicide rate in debt-ridden Greece,” CNN, April 6, 2012, http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/06/world/europe/greece-austerity-suicide/index.html?_s=PM:EUROPE; Nigel Morris, “Spike in suicide rate in Europe and US linked to financial crisis,” Independent, September 18, 2013, http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/spike-in-suicide-rate-in-europe-and-us-linked-to-financial-crisis-8822729.html

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