Chemical Overload

Toxic capitalism seeks to destroy environmental norms

By Editorial Board

Sitting tucked between towering refineries are multiple communities all wait- ing for the next shelter-in-place alarm to throw into question their health and general safety.
Despite the vast amounts of information regarding the dangers of pollution released by many of these refineries, people in our community have no option but to roll the dice and live where they can afford to.

Some call the industrial waste problem that plagues low income communities the biggest racial problem in our country.

Chevron in Richmond, Conocophillips in Rodeo, Shell and Tesoro in Martinez and Valero in Benicia are leading contributers to the pollution that infects the air we breathe with chemicals daily.

The vast majority of the people who live near these publicly corrosive industries are people of color who do not have the resourc- es to move to another community, so they must suffer and wait.

Even as information becomes more acces- sible and the public becomes more aware of the dangers of rampant pollution, these local merchants of slow death are looking to expand their operations and bring some of the most harmful substances into our com- munities for refinement.

Canadian tar sands have been the cause of many of the most recent fossil fuel trans- portation disasters in recent memory. The substance was also at the center of the Trans- Canada pipeline that has already begun to ship tar sands from Canada to refineries and ports in the American South.

In the Bay Area, residents that call them- selves progressives do little to support the efforts of the few who work to fight this industrial scourge.

Community activist meetings and shore- line clean-up efforts are typically underpop- ulated and lack real word-of-mouth support to make the effort actually meaningful.

As long as there is no public outcry against the pollution of our local waterways and tributaries, companies like those that run the big five refineries that surround East Bay communities will continue business as usual.

Despite the efforts of well-meaning, underfunded scientists who look to expose the corruption and negligence of some of the areas worst toxic contributors, the public rarely responds to anything that isn’t shroud- ed in a cloud of smoke or signaled by a siren.

Efforts by corporations, over the course of many years, to bribe those affected by the release of chemicals in the community with menial amounts of hush money has set some sort of a precedence. People in Richmond and surrounding cities flock to overpriced lawyers in hopes of a quick payday.

After each commercial disaster, residents who brave the long lines at area clinics rush to bring their doctor reports to law offices to cash in on a quick buck.

Even with the knowledge that those same lawyers can take upward of 70 percent of the money garnered from the offending compa- ny for filling the air with pollutants.

Why does it take a near disaster for people to become aware of the potential factories of death that surround their homes?

Until people stop searching for the fast money and begin to realize what health problems will come from repeated exposure to tar sands, oil and the products used to refine them both, health and safety condi- tions locally will continue to deteriorate.