Thursday, February 20, 2014

Toxic Legacy: Learning from Environmental History

By Kristen Andrada

Initially when I first looked at environmental problems, I was quite ignorant; I thought that people were ignorant for not thinking about the consequences of their actions that would pollute or destroy the environment and cause harm to themselves and all life around them. But I’ve come to learn that there’s reason for things people do, even if they don’t care much for the environment.

I’ve come to develop an interest in environmental history, because it shows that you can’t just look at the environmental aspect of an environmental problem but you must look at all the parties involved, their histories, as well as the political and social movements that are occurring at that time. You come to learn that everything interconnects, and reading everything on the “Toxic Legacy” website is a great example of that.

When I first heard about the paint sludge problem, I thought it wasn’t a big deal compared to other environmental tragedies that I’ve heard about around the world. Because it was on a LOCAL level, I understood that it can still be easily handled if it was within reach. Prior to this I saw a pattern that people often don’t work towards problems unless the problem was in their way. Of course, this was a problem for people because they lived in that situation, but more so it was a problem that they couldn’t get out of because they didn’t know that it was a problem to begin with and they didn’t have a voice because these people were living in poor communities.

Then everything made sense to me when I read about Ford’s history in Ringwood. I had no idea that the manufacturing plant was the largest in the world at the time. I had no idea that was a product of veterans coming back home from WWII to encourage the development of families. And of course no one really thought much about the consequences of where they put waste since there were no environmental laws established at the time. With their fast paced business and assembly line work, they needed to remove wastes as fast as they pumped out new cars for families. Yes, many Americans have enjoyed this luxury, but at a great price for their neighbors and future families.

As mentioned in class, problems don’t arise to the public level until someone says something about it and it’s important to keep going with that until the problem is solved. As much as I love learning about the environmental history of some things, a lot of the times that problem still persists and needs updating of the key players in the issue and what (or if) policies are in process for change.

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