Playing with Fire chronicles the ongoing struggle facing Louisiana families trying to live and work against the backdrop of corrupt politicians and corporate greed. However, the story presented here is relevant wherever low-income, disenfranchised people are not included in decisions about their health and environment. This book examines the tale of Marine Shale Processors, the world’s largest hazardous waste company, and the women who fought to protect their community and their children. The lesson here is that a dedicated group of people fighting for what is right can win and it serves as an example for any community that wants to determine what their own environmental future. Playing with Fire is a well-documented account that provides lessons for communities, government agencies, and corporations. It dispels the narrative that low-income communities must settle for jobs at the expense of clean air and water and politicians and demonstrates that corporations that further trample on the rights of people will ultimately pay the price.
John W. Sutherlin is professor of political science and public administration at the University of Louisiana Monroe (ULM).
Daniel Elliot Gonzalez has a master’s in history at the University of Louisiana Monroe (ULM).
List of Figures
Introduction. Sound and Fury, Signifying Everything
Chapter One. Something about Saint Mary
Chapter Two. The Bacon Gets Burnt
Chapter Three. A Fire from Within
Chapter Four. Not a Sentimental Journey
Chapter Five. Back to Louisiana
Charter Six. The People vs. Marine Shale: Building the Case
Chapter Seven. Case Closed, Pt. 1
Chapter Eight. Case Closed, Pt. 2: Verdict Rendered
Chapter Nine. Putting Out the Fire
Conclusions. So, What Did We Learn?
About the Authors
It has been said that, from an environmental justice movement perspective, Louisiana remains a hotbed of grassroots community activism, and that many women have emerged as leaders from groups of concerned citizens. Playing With Fire examines the protracted fight led by women against Louisiana’s political leaders, the Department of Environmental Quality’s regulators, and the company, Marine Shale Processors, that operated the world’s largest hazardous waste incinerator. This well-written book examines the racial and class dynamics that were present in that struggle, and offers lessons learned for grassroots organizing, citizen participation, and community activism.
Crossing over the Amelia Bridge, one no longer sees the Marine Shale Kiln releasing toxic emissions into the air and there is no longer a threat that another company will try to reopen the facility. May the children, who were the Neuroblastoma victims, never be forgotten.
Acknowledging environmental consequences of a lax regulatory tradition has long been a hard sell in Louisiana. Playing with Fire greatly advances our understanding of what has been a neglected topic in public discourse. Politicians, regulators, and indeed industry leaders should have a list of required readings, and this book should be on that list.
The authors deliver the most comprehensive case study of hazardous waste management to date by weaving a narrative that shows a comprehensive understanding of the intersection of economics, environmental concerns, politics, history, culture, race, gender, class, religion and policy-making in the unique mélange that is Louisiana.This is a must read for every policy-maker, and educator.
Playing with Fire captures the labyrinthine web of power and influence that directs politics in the Pelican State. Telling a near-apocalyptic story, Playing with Fire probes Louisiana’s disastrous environmental and regulatory past while forecasting an uncertain future.
The public relies on its leadership to get the balancing act right—on economic factors, on environmental factors, on health and quality of life factors, among others. Playing with Fire presents a cautionary tale on what happens when whoever’s doing that balancing act falls short of what’s needed to protect those most vulnerable.