‘They chose us because we were rural and poor’: when environmental racism and climate change collide
By Megan Mayhew Bergman ~ The Guardian ~
The environmental movement has a long history in America’s south – yet people of color and impoverished communities continue to face dangerous pollution
It doesn’t surprise me that the environmental justice movement began in the south, a place where, historically, the pressure of injustice builds until it explodes into organized resistance.
The Warren, North Carolina, protests of 1982 are considered one of the earliest examples of the environmental justice movement. A manufacturer of electrical transformers dumped tons of cancer-causing PCB waste along 240 miles of North Carolina’s highways. When it came time for the clean up, the North Carolina government chose Warren – a small, predominantly African American town – for the toxic waste facility.
There were weeks of protests and over 500 arrests. It was an awakening, showing the country that race and class play a part in who has to live near toxic waste.
I spoke with Almena Myles, one of the protesters. Even 30 years later, the incident has left a mark. “I learned why we were targeted. They chose us because we were rural and poor and they thought we couldn’t fight it,” she told me. “They thought we wouldn’t understand. It was a crash course in advocacy