The political economy of toxic waste was summed up by Lawrence Summers—then chief economist at the World Bank, later U.S. Treasury Secretary—in his notorious claim that poor people live in environments that are, from an economic point of view, not sufficiently polluted. In its ceaseless search for profit, the toxic waste industry now routinely endangers the health of people around the worlds and the planet itself.
Girdner and Smith’s Killing Me Softly examines the growth of the toxic waste industry and the economic logic behind its expansion. It gives a hard-hitting account of the damage it has done throughout the United States. It focuses in particular on the struggle of the people of Mercer County, Missouri, against the plans of Amoco Waste-Tech to establish a huge toxic waste landfill in the county. It shows how the persistence of ordinary people in a poor and politically marginalized area could prevail against the predations of corporate power.
Although race and ethnicity play a crucial role in deciding which communities are targeted for toxic waste dumps, Girdner and Smith argue that the critical cleavage within the United States and globally is that of class. The struggle for environmental justice has an important role to play in empowering poor communities and bringing them into a larger movement for social justice.
What’s refreshing about Killing Me Softly is its insistence on viewing environmental problems as intrinsic features of our social and economic system …. It provides a convincing case both against the economic system that causes environmental destruction and in favor of struggles that can stop the spread of the destruction.
Table of Contents
- The Toxic Political Economy
- Wasting America: Capitalism, Waste, and the Market in the United States
- Environmental Justice, Democracy, and Grassroots Political Struggle
- The People’s Struggle Against Amoco Waste-Tech in Mercer County, Missouri
- Lessons from Mercer County
- Wasting the World: Enclosure, Accumulation and Local Environmental Struggles on a Global Scale
teaches English and Philosophy at North Central Missouri College. His fiction and reviews have been published in a number of literary reviews. He is co-editor of the Green Hills Literary Lantern.