Archive for category Ecofeminist Reflections

BRB, I’m Going Shopping.

This past Tuesday was the last Ecofeminism class of the semester, for me at least.  What I will remember about that specific class is when Professor Bartlow asked how many of us have spent more than 2 hours shopping.  Sadly, only the women in the class were the ones to raise their hands.  I do admit, I have absolutely spent more than two hours shopping.

Shopping for clothes is not the only form of shopping that came into my mind when the question was asked.  Interestingly enough, the form of shopping that I thought of immediately was grocery shopping.  Have you ever walked into a grocery store, no shopping list, and just strolled with your cart exploring the isles? It is honestly one of the most relaxing pleasures I have had the privilege to experience.  It’s hard to explain, but something about walking aimlessly through an enormous room full of food, delicious and mine for the taking, allows ones mind to go free and just think.  In a stereotypical family, the father goes out and works while the housewife does chores, goes to the supermarket, and cooks dinner.

It couldn’t be more than a year ago that I discovered the magic of grocery shopping.  I was sitting in a friend’s house and their entire family was throwing a fit because Theodora (the mother) had left for the supermarket and was gone for 3 hours.  “What could she possibly be doing?”… “She’s probably not even there and went somewhere else, she forgot about us” were the questions being thrown around the house while a bunch of angry Greeks with empty stomachs waited for the return of the cook.  When she finally came back, they were perplexed to find out she indeed was in the market the entire time.  She told them to fuck off, said it was relaxing, and proceeded to cook dinner.  So I tried it.

Mind blowing.

Surrounded by mothers, the occasional middle aged man picking up a few things for the house, and whoever else was there that day were all witnesses to my new found love of supermarkets.  For the people who are balancing 4 kids, a job, and maintain some shred of sanity… maybe going to the supermarket is the last thing they have to squeeze into their schedule before they can finally go to sleep and I understand.  But for those of you reading this who have the time, I dare you to go to the supermarket, get a cart and just stroll… You wont be disappo

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Occupy Wall-Street Movement in depth.

On May 1st, 2012 the police in various states arrested several hundred Occupy Wall Street protesters particularly in New York where the protests began in September 2011. Using the words of Robert Alan Sessions in Ecofeminism and Work, it can be argued that people burdened with “compensatory consumption”, the dichotomy of work and leisure and mainly unequal distribution of wealth has resulted in this movement that totally opposes capitalism in the birthplace of capitalism itself (Sessions 181,182, 183). One of the major themes of the protests is 99 percent versus the 1 percent highlighting the great income inequality in the U.S. where the wealth of 1 percent has steadily risen whereas the income of the bottom 80 percent has remained the same or even decreased since their highest in the 1970s. From 1970s onwards, corporations have took hold of both political parties in the U.S. and has greatly reduced the rights of the people.

The police has been very violent towards the Occupy Wall Street protesters showing the real intentions of the government.

The Financial Crisis in 2008 and the immediate bail-out that followed that led to hundreds of billions of dollars being handed to chosen banks in Wall-Street shows the strong influence Wall-Street banks have over the White House and the Federal Reserve. It is as if the main purpose of the U.S. government is to serve not the people but the Wall-Street banks. The banks in Wall-Street thanks to government money are bigger and stronger than ever and are back to paying huge bonuses to their employees where as ordinary Americans find it hard to find a job with a good pay and keep their house. The result is people are working two or even three jobs at the same time to maintain their standard of living or even worse are borrowing against their house or using credit card. Also add with the rising cost of attending college that creates a significant barrier for people to attend college. The result has been protests across America especially in colleges and universities in California where the government decided to increase the tuition. But generally police has been very violent towards protesters using force which has questioned the true intentions of the government regarding human rights and proves that the Occupy Wall Street movement is one of the worst nightmares of the government. After World War II, the cold war helped to polarize the capitalistic spirit in America by branding communists as enemies of the state.

The protests have attracted people from all walks of life. In the image it can be seen that women along with men are participating in the protests on May 1st, 2012 in NYC.

The sheer uniqueness of the protesters adds something to the Occupy Wall-Street protests. The fact that the protesters are not bound by gender, race, class or age but unified by the movement is amazing. Also the protests have questioned the ethics of recent graduates going into a financial career. Many previous financial career enthusiasts are now changing their plans to other fields. Capitalism and patriarchy can be traced as the two root causes that result in great income inequality and also destruction of the environment. Since the Industrial Revolution, economic growth has been co-related with environmental destruction (Sessions 176).  The fact that patriarchy puts man above nature and women leads to exploitation of both. Also the capitalistic intentions of profit play a big role as systemic inequality generates big amount of money for the people at the top. Only time will tell what the protests will lead to. But we can all hope for a better society and a better environment.

Works Cited

Sessions, Robert A. “Ecofeminism and Work.” Ed. Karen Warren. Ecofeminism: Women, Culture, Nature. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1997. 176-92. Print.

 

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Talking Sex @ Dickinson: LGBT Healthcare

Before I attended the discussion about LGBT Healthcare, the need to come out to ones health care provider never crossed my mind.  It was very interesting and somewhat disturbing to learn of peoples negative experiences on the subject.  Now, I see why its essential for people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender to come out to their health care providers because there are many tests that doctors label as standard procedure, especially for people at my age, that may only apply to straight men and women.  Joy Verner, Asst to VP Student Development & VP of Student Development here at Dickinson had some very interesting experiences with coming out to her health care providers.  The way she told the story was very comical, but the fact that it was something she had to spell out to her nurse practitioner & the way the nurse reacted to her sexual orientation made me question the professionalism of some health care providers and saw some connections to ecofeminsm.  Peter Paquette, AsstDean of Students, said that there are health care offices that are proudly LGBT friendly but there is no way to know that all doctors will be 100% accepting of their LGBT patients.  Like ecofeminsm, this is another example of how social norms negatively impact members of the LGBT community and is overlooked by many people today. 

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Fresh From the Farm!

The Best Summer Food in Carlisle: Fresh strawberries managed and harvested by my friends and classmates at the Dickinson College (now Certified Organic!) Farm. Today I picked up my first CSA share of vegetables from the farm which included green onions, garlic, sugarsnap peas, strawberries (!), cilantro, chard, salad greens, lettuce, spinach, and more!

Every year from May through June, the Farm offers a program called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) through which local consumers like me subscribe and receive a weekly supply of fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Buying into a CSA is an investment in the financial stability of local farmers and their farms, by allowing farmers to focus on the quality of their food and not solely on potential profits. CSA encourages sustainable agriculture that is local, organic, and poly-cultured (they grow numerous plants that support each other and the soil).

 

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Vegan=Ecofeminist?

Being vegan means more than just “Saving the animals!” or “Saving the Earth!” It’s not just about being a PETA member or choosing a diet that is environmentally sustainable and will give you a great looking body. After reading Lori Gruen’s piece “Women and Animals” in Ecofeminism: Women, Animals, Nature” I came to understand that abstaining from eating animals in one’s diet is also an ecofeminist action. In her essay, Gruen explores patriarchy’s connection of women and animals, saying that men have historically considered both to be “tools devoid of feelings, desires, and interests,” creating a distinction of women and animals both as different from and inferior to man. Ultimately, this separation links the oppressed entities to the other and justifies man’s infliction of pain and death onto both, whether manifested as factory farming or sexual violence.

I’ve been vegan for about six months now. I originally became vegan for health reasons; for me personally, clearing out all of the edible “clutter” helped me to see what was actually nutritional and my diet became much more balanced. Before reading Gruen’s article I had never considered my dietary decision, which as one with ecofeminist implications. When I refuse to consume animal products (meat, eggs, dairy and its derivatives), I am rejecting the historical, interlocking oppression of women and animals. Women are not animals, to be used and abused for the sake of man. Nor should human interaction with animals be devoid of respect.

A vegan diet is an interesting ecofeminist action, although not easy for all to access because of class distinctions. Yes, it has environmental impact by reducing the amount of carbon, water, oil, and other aspects of land and energy to produce the food a vegan consumes. Yes, it means less violence against animals. It also has other ethical and philosophical implications, which Ramsay Pierce, a fellow Ecofeminist blogger, talks about in one of her posts. Being vegan is so clearly ecofeminist because it involves all of these different intersections, but also because it inherently rejects the patriarchal, destructive linkage of women and animals.

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How do I oppress thee? Let me count the ways.

With all apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her love poem, Sonnet 43, I was miffed by the number of ways that “blue collar women” were frustrated in their efforts to clean up toxic waste sites in their neighborhoods as described in Celene Krauss’s article, “Blue Collar Women and Toxic Waste Protests”.  Ms. Krauss graciously calls the resulting discovery and activist processes “politicization”, but the process that motivates this politicization is no less than oppression.

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In her essay, “Oppression”, Marilyn Frye characterizes the experience of oppression as a life that is “confined and shaped by forces and barriers which are not accidental or occasional and hence avoidable, but are systematically related to each other in such a way as to catch one between and among them and restrict or penalize motion in any direction” (Frye, p XXX2).  She likens systematic oppression to a birdcage; one wire of the birdcage does not confine the bird, but the collection of wires, systematically arranged, keeps the bird from flying away.

Upon reading “Blue-Collar Women”, I was reminded of that birdcage.  Just how many systematically placed barriers do the “Blue-Collar Women” have to face?  Let me count the ways:

1.     A woman realizes that her child is constantly ill from a neighborhood toxic site.  She encounters the barrier requiring her to navigate through the local government agencies to find the appropriate one to receive her complaint.

2.     Upon registering her complaint, she realizes that the local government is indifferent claiming that “pollution was ‘the price of a better way of life’” (Krauss, p 111).  She navigates through the state government agencies to find the appropriate one to receive her complaint.

3.     Upon registering her complaint with the state, she realizes that the state government has “withheld information from residents because ‘they didn’t want to panic the public’” (Krauss, p 111).  She turns to activism, in particular, to protest activism.

4.     Upon engaging in political activism, she discovers that the “government that claims to act on behalf of the public interest … favors the wishes of powerful business interests over the health and welfare of children and their families” (Krauss, p 112).  She becomes more militant in her activism.

5.     As she continues her activist efforts, she discovers that “policymakers are traditionally white, male, and middle class” (Krauss, p 112).  She now must navigate through racism, sexism, and classism to be heard.

6.     Upon getting a hearing, she finds that the white, male, middle class policymakers tend to intimidate by “ignoring women, criticizing them for being overemotional, and especially by delegitimizing their authority by labeling them ‘hysterical housewives’” (Krauss, p 112).  She now must endure public humiliation and navigate through intimidation.

7.     Having endured humiliation, the “Blue-Collar Woman” now suffers from bruised self-esteem.  She must endure the beating to her self-esteem, keep her “eyes on the prize”, and try again.

8.     As she continues her activism, she must develop social organization knowledge and skills.  In many cases, other activist organizations, such as the Citizen’s Clearinghouse of Hazardous Wastes (CCHW), offer conferences that help women “learn to translate their skills as family organizers into the political arena” (Krauss, p 113).

9.     She must navigate around the incumbent power structure involving not only political organizations, but the “highly traditional gender roles characteristic of the blue-collar family” (Krauss, p 114).

10.  And, if she is successful, she must deal with the consequences of her activism on her marriage and her family.  The toll may be high as there is a “very high divorce rate among activists and that, following protest activities, CCHW receives a higher number of reports of wife-battering” (Krauss, p 114).

How many barriers must exist before toxic dumping is recognized as oppression?  Ms. Krauss offers hope in her essay as she does present ways that activists have overcome some of the barriers and achieved results.  It will only be through these continued efforts that the barriers will be dismantled and the bird will be free.

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Bibliography

Frye, Marilyn, “Oppression”, Feminist Theory: A Philosophical Anthology, ed. Ann Cudd and Robin Andreasen, Wiley-Blackwell, 2005, p 84 – 90

Krauss, Celene, “Blue-Collar Women and Toxic-Waste Protests: The Process of Politicization”, Toxic Struggles:  The Theory and Practice of Environmental Justice, ed. Richard Hofrichter, University of Utah Press, 2002, p 107 – 117

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MENSTRUATION! Now that I’ve got your attention…

There is a huge taboo in the world of feminine bodily processes and hygiene products. Even with my first word, there are countless men and probably half as many women who would have run for the hills at the mere mention of a woman’s menstrual cycle in everyday conversation. There is a popular, and ancient, perception that a woman’s monthly cycle is something to be actively ignored, protected from or ashamed of. Even today, after society has become comfortable enough with allowing women into the office and to sleep in the same beds as their husbands during “that time of the month,” we still find it unacceptable to acknowledge that it exists, and even worse, perpetuate the bias that women are impure and inferior because of it.
Yet, this social stigma and the practices around it aren’t event the worst part. To combat that monthly ’nuisance’ and ’guard’ against it ’soiling’ their daily lives, most women use tampons. And while to the majority of society, the revolution of feminine hygiene products into what they are today is a wonderful thing. However, there is a horrifying little secret behind the making of tampons that is ‘dirtier’ than the menstrual blood it absorbs. Tampons are considered a medical product by the FDA and therefore is not regulated by the federal government, nor required to be sanitary. It is the responsibility of industry and the companies who produce them to regulate what is in them. The average tampon has cotton, bleach, rayon, viscose, polyester, C.E.C., and perfume (which is a combination of hundred of chemical compounds that are also not regulated). Cotton is cheap, it’s more absorbent so it’s an obvious choice for a tampon material; however, cotton is one of the heaviest pesticide used crop; and rayon is a wood pulp mixture treated with chemicals to create synthetic fibers. And the bleaching process…it does absolutely nothing to sanitize the product; it makes it white. That’s it. And dioxin. A combination of hundreds of chemicals that are so harmful, a tablespoon would kill everyone on the planet (Telpner). One of the most horrifying things I realized when learning about the toxicity of my menstrual products, was how they are harming you even after your period is over. Because of the absorbency of the average tampon, they create tiny lacerations in the most sensitive part of your body and imbed tiny fibers with all of these chemicals that continue to pollute your body.

So as if this isn’t all bad enough: you can’t talk about your bodily processes because they aren’t socially acceptable, you are led to believe that your are ashamed of your body and you are polluted by the very products you use to hide your womanhood; then companies only reinforce these societal ideals through their ads that are selling you these toxic products. Talk about a self-perpetuating system. The advertising strategy is 2 fold. Either they are trying to convince you that with this product you will no longer feel trapped or burdened by your natural life-giving and sustaining cycles, or they can’t guarantee that you’ll feel any better about your ’problem,’ your life will suck and this product will make your life suck a little less. Great choices. So to recap, a woman’s life is incredibly unfortunate because she is burdened by an unclean and shameful bodily function, we are given incredibly harmful and toxic products to hide and combat this unfortunate monthly occurrence, that can kill or irrevocably harm us or our future children, and we can’t arm ourselves with rights or knowledge because it is socially unacceptable to talk about it. If that isn’t absolutely sexist, I don’t know what is.

This calls for a cultural revolution. Firstly, as a society, we need to get past the idea that feminine bodily cycles are wrong or shameful. They are not, and in order to combat that societal perception, people need to feel comfortable with talking about it as a natural, human process. This may require aggressive or confrontational means to start; sometimes the only way to revolutionize is to be radical. Secondly, women need to arm themselves with the knowledge of what they are putting in their bodies and then make appropriate choices for their lifestyles accordingly. And thirdly, women need to demand safer and healthier choices to be made more readily available and mainstream. Without these steps, women are condemned to a life of being ashamed of their bodies so lying capitalistic corporations perpetuate the inferiority in order to sell toxic products, while telling them to “have a happy period”.

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Living in Abstraction and Ignorance: We are all Guilty

In class last week we had a discussion that focused on militarism and eco-terrorism. During our conversation, I came to the realization that secrecy and the removed nature of structures and industries in our world is one of the main contributing factors to the apathy we are all guilty of participating in, in one area of our lives or another. Whether it is ignoring the reality of where our food comes from, how our products are made, the loss of lives and torture/exploitation of bodies that results in war, or the impact our consumption practices have on the environment, we all find a way to cope with reality through abstraction, because reality at present, is cruel, torturous, exploitive and destructive. People and animals are killed and tortured every day and these actions are in some way condoned by industrial or governmental structures in place. Consumers purchase products even when they know that workers who are underpaid and mistreated most likely made them. People leave lights on and actively choose not to recycle despite the fact that our environment is in grave danger. Every day we make decisions that inevitably contradict values that we claim to have. This is not something that we do because we are bad or uncaring people. We do it because, if we honestly faced the consequences that all of our actions contributed to, we wouldn’t know how to function.

When I think about how it would be possible for me to live a life in which none of my decisions contributed to or condoned in any way structures that create practices that I find morally wrong, the only solution I see is moving to a foreign country, living in the middle of nowhere, growing my own food and minding my own business. Even though I have sometimes considered this, it is not a likely outcome for me and it would force me to abandon the family and people in my life I care about. But I also don’t want to live a life where I am being purposefully ignorant for the purpose of being able to live with a restful conscience. I don’t want to live the kind of life where I say, just because I can’t fix everything, I don’t have to worry about trying to fix anything. Even though my deciding to no longer eat meat (a decision I am still working through) will not put an end to the meat industry, it doesn’t make it okay for me to eat meat, just because everyone else is and I can’t get everyone to stop. And we all know, in one way or another, the facts. In Creating a Culture of Destruction: Gender, Militarism, and the Environment, Joni Seager claims that “Secrecy is the gatekeeper of power”(Seager 60). This is the truth with all industries of our time that work for monetary profit. And until you put effort into being more aware, it seems like a win-win for everyone; I get to eat juicy meats and buy fancy products free of guilt. But tell me honestly, do you want to consciously be the kind of person who believes packaging and advertising because you can, when deep down you know it isn’t the truth. In Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer says that “Our response to the factory farm is ultimately a test of how we respond to the powerless, to the most distant, to the voiceless—it is a test of how we act when no one is forcing us to act one way or another” (Foer, 267). The question is, once cruelty and exploitation are no longer a secret, and IT’S NOT A SECRET, how disgusted and appalled do we have to be before we will change our behavior? This is a video called “Meet your Meat” that you may or may not have seen before. I have just seen it for the first time and this is my last straw. I’ve mentioned several times that I have been considering how and if I can be a vegetarian and I have now made the commitment to change my lifestyle. Here’s what I don’t understand, how could anyone know this information, watch it with their own eyes and continue eating meat that comes from an industry that factory farms animal flesh? I have begun my commitment to a new vegetarian lifestyle the day before Thanksgiving. Foer says that

…more than any other food, the Thanksgiving turkey embodies the paradoxes of eating animals: what we do to living turkeys is just about as bad as anything humans have ever done to any animal in the history of the world. Yet what we do with their dead bodies can feel so powerfully good and right. The Thanksgiving turkey is the flesh of competing instincts—of remembering and forgetting. (Foer 249)

I began this blog post with the intent of talking about how we must be patient with others and ourselves in our endeavor to care about these issues without being overwhelmed. But people are dying, animals are dying, the environment is suffering and even if we can’t all devote our full energy to fighting for everything that is wrong in our world, we can certainly change lifestyle patterns that we KNOW contribute to and perpetuate systems that exploit and torture. And it’s no huge sacrifice to us. This is what ecofeminism means to me; take responsibility for being informed about your actions and what they contribute to and have the courage to change things in your life if you know they are harmful; stop eating meat (in the very least, inform yourself about where meat comes from and how it is produced), don’t use products that are toxic for your body, turn the lights off and recycle, don’t tolerate jokes, language, or actions that insult people or animals, buy locally when you can, don’t take 20 minute showers, try using a diva cup, be aware of the privileges you have and most importantly, know the consequences, immediate and distant, of your actions, your purchases and your words. I truly believe that all this requires is being honest and refusing to look away in ignorance. I can be patient with myself and others, and so can anyone, but ignorance is not to be equated with patience.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIjanhKqVC4 This video is on YouTube. It has been watched 2,897,264 times.

For Christmas this year, I am asking my family and friends to read this book. That is all I want.

http://www.eatinganimals.com/

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Get Your Dynamite off My Mountain

Breanna Marr, published on November 24, 2010:

Celene Krauss’ article “Blue-Collar Women and Toxic-Waste Protests: The Process of Politicization,” which appears in Richard Hofrichter’s Toxic Struggles: The Theory and Practice of Environmental Justice explores the overwhelming input by diverse groups of women (particularly, as the title suggests, working-class groups) in the grass roots anti-toxics movement. She addresses the challenges facing these women, particularly the hand of men blocking them from the public sphere, effectively locking them in the private. This largely excludes them from the policy making process. This article shook me; it would be hard for a chapter from a book to hit closer to home. These women “fight to close down toxic-waste dump sites, prevent the siting of hazardous-waste incinerators, influence chemical companies’ production processes and waste disposal, and push for recycling projects” (Krauss, 108). In my backyard, however, women grass roots activists fight mountaintop removal.

 

A scream in silence (Merchant, 2010).

Mountaintop removal is the process by which coal companies reduce mountains to rubble in order to mine strips of coal as thin as six inches in width. It is the “dismemberment of our natural environment” (Williams, 24). Fueled by greed and America’s addiction to fossil fuels, these companies brutalize the Appalachian Mountains. Armed with guns, explosives, excavators the size of a 20-story building, and enough money to buy the consciences of state politicians and the future of West Virginia, coal companies like Massey Energy decimate entire mountain chains. They replace beauty and biodiversity with desolate moonscapes and crabgrass. Over 1,200 miles of streams in the state have been destroyed by valley-fill, and hundreds of thousands of acres have been clear-cut, blown up, and mashed together in a sick joke that the coal companies call “reclamation.” Mountaintop removal is the violent, irreverent act of raping the land and stripping hope and health from West Virginia.

One of the loudest voices in West Virginia against mountaintop removal belongs to a woman. Are you surprised? Judy Bonds belongs on the list of environmentalist heroes right beside Lois Gibbs. A coal miner’s daughter and proud hillbilly, Bonds is the director of Coal River Mountain Watch (CRMW) and a recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize. I had the privilege of meeting this incredible woman while traveling through West Virginia during the 2009 Luce Watershed Semester (check out the blog!). Her commitment to activism began when her grandson picked up a handful of dead fish out of a stream and asked her what was wrong with them. The overwhelming desolation and pollution caused by mountaintop removal became too much for her to accept. If her elected representatives were not going to protect her and her state from pollution, flying boulders, increased flooding, loss of heritage, and explosions orders of magnitude more powerful than the Oklahoma City bombing, then she would.

Judy Bonds outside CRMW (American Public Media 2009).

Today, she and her organization operate out of a shop front in Whitesville, WV.  CRMW began in 1998 with only a small group of volunteers determined to fight for social, economic, and environmental justice for West Virginians. Like the activists Krauss describes in her article, they “recognize[d] the failure of the system as a whole to act on their behalf and their own disenfranchisement from the policy-making process” (108). Now, CRMW is a powerful force against mountaintop removal. It hosts rallies, protests, educational programs, and petitions. It is Bonds’ goal to push state and local officials to finally act in the best interest of West Virginians and stop mountaintop removal. Despite the more than one hundred acts of violence that she has faced at the hands of coal supporters, her fierce determination cannot be shaken. While the end of the madness is nowhere in sight, Bonds and CRMW have won numerous important concessions from the State Mining Board and pursued cases in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. She has brought attention to the safety and rights of Appalachians, a group of people often forgotten and neglected by the rest of the United States. She’s fighting for their lives.

American Public Media. 2009. “Is There Energy to Slow Climate Change?” Site accessed: 24 November 2010. http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2009/10/29/pm-climate-race3/.

Krauss, Celene. “Blue-Collar Women and Toxic-Waste Protests: The Process of Politicization.” Toxic Struggles: The Theory and Practice of Environmental Justice. Richard Hofrichter. Ed.

Merchant, Bryan. 2010. “Fate of Biggest US Mountaintop Removal Mining Project to be Decided This Year.” Treehugger. Site accessed: 24 Nov. 2010. http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/07/biggest-mountaintop-removal-mining-project-decided.php.

Williams, Delores, S. “Sin, Nature, and Black Women’s Bodies.”

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Toxicity Resources

Hi! Post any resources you’ve discovered here to help others on their toxicity research. A word for the wise: Don’t get too discouraged by your findings.

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