The New Mass Extinction: Corporate Polluters Are Violent Racists

Mountaintop removal

Violence exists in many forms. Normative violence is violence that is so commonplace that people accept it as just another part of life. The destruction of the planet’s ecosystems and the creatures that inhabit them are so commonplace that acts violence that rival the violence of groups of international terrorist organizations and barley go noticed.

In Appalachia coal country, more than 1.2 million acres of land have been destroyed in a process that is referred to as surface mining. More than 500 mountains have been destroyed due to mountaintop removal. This is all justified because coal companies claim they can restore the land that they destroyed. The idea that companies can restore the land is ludicrous. This is not a new process; mountain top removal began in the 1970s. In just forty years, about as much land has been destroyed in search of coal as the total area of the state of Delaware.

Racialized violence is normative, environmentally racialized violence is barely spoken of. Take a deep breath and ask yourself, “is this air killing me?” Statistically speaking, if you are black then the answer is far more likely to be yes. A study released in 2015, found that race is the number one determination of whether a person in the United States will die because of poor air quality. The study estimates that around 7,000 more people of color die from heart disease related to air pollution than white people do, every year.

Environmental violence is so normative; it is often times paid for by the people who are the victims of that violence. In 2007, the city of Detroit approved a $175 million dollar property tax abatement for a refinery owned by Marathon. The tax break was created in order to help the refinery expand, this was partly done in the hopes that refinery would create more jobs and hire Detroit residents. As of 2014, only 15 of the new employees hired at the refinery are Detroit residents. An estimated 100,000 poor, mostly people of color are about to have their homes forcefully removed from them for owing a collective $157 million dollars in property taxes. The area surrounding the Marathon refinery was referred to as “Michigan’s dirtiest zip code” by Al Jazeera in 2014. In the 48217 zip code, residents can expect to have an increased chance for cancer, live in an area saturated with harmful chemicals, and property values averaging only $16,000. Oh, and massive water shut offs too.

The Marathon refinery makes gasoline from tar sands transported from Alberta, Canada. Most of the tar sands that end up at the refinery come from through a pipeline owned by the Canadian company, Enbridge. That pipeline ruptured in 2010, causing the largest inland oil spill in history to occur. Since then, line 6B has been repaired and expanded to double the amount of tar sands that flow through it each day. Of course, that oil will be burned and cover the planet in a blanket of carbon that will further destabilize the planet’s climate. This will potentially kill millions of people, mainly the poor and people of color.

The violence of environmental destruction is slow. It does not have the same impact in the media as instances of police brutality or of war. However, environmental destruction is an act of classist, racialized violence that becomes profit for the largest corporations on the planet. It is a violence that makes the air a cancer, the water a poison, and humanity a plague on the other species that inhabit this planet.

Reprinted with permission from Addicting Info


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