Garbage Gumbo is a well-researched and detailed account of one of the strangest political, environmental, and regulatory battles to have ever occurred in Louisiana. Although the crucial matter involves the permitting of a landfill, the lessons learned are most important to anyone wanting better governance in a state where wealth and power still count for more than protecting people or the environment. This is a tale of a decades-long struggle that cost a small, rural family everything, except their principles. This story includes an undercover FBI sting, a federal investigation, state agency incompetence, allegations of political corruption and corporate greed.
John W. Sutherlin is professor of political science and public administration and the Chief Innovation & Research Officer (CIRO) for the University of Louisiana Monroe (ULM).
List of Figures
Part I: The Federal Roux and a Little Broth.
Chapter One: In the Beginning…
Chapter Two: Here Come the Feds…Water
Chapter Three: Here Come the Feds…Solid Waste
Chapter Four: Landfills, Leachate and Other Trash
Part II: Some Louisiana Spices.
Chapter Five: Louisiana Flavor
Chapter Six: Assumption Parish
Chapter Seven: The Hartman Family
Chapter Eight: Jefferson Parish
Chapter Nine: The ‘Heebe-Jeebies’
Part III: Stirring the Pot
Chapter Ten: The Belle Landfill Proposal
Chapter Eleven: Wait…What Happened?
Chapter Twelve: Party like its…Not likely
Chapter Thirteen: Things Change and Stay the Same
Chapter Fourteen: A Trash Teaser
Chapter Fifteen: The Hartman’s v. The Machine
Part IV: The Gumbo is Served.
Chapter Sixteen: Here Come the Feds…for Real
Chapter Seventeen: What’s Going on Here?
Chapter Eighteen: All Charges Dismissed
Chapter Nineteen: One Last Try
Post-Mortem: For Whom the Bell(e) Tolls
About the Author
As is perhaps appropriate for a tale concerning the unique beauty of the Louisiana landscape and the unique character of Louisiana politics, Professor Sutherlin’s account mixes serious and often tragic facts with unexpected humor and yarn-spinning verve. His academic expertise and experience have prepared him well to explain the technical complexities and political intricacies of the case study he presents. No unexplained jargon or secondary technicalities detract from the drama, and the pathos, of a story that combines the information of a factual report with the pacing and color of a novel. He has given us an unparalleled insight into a rich cast of characters who become involved in environmental politics. The result is as memorable as it is sobering.
In his revealing new book, Sutherlin takes readers to the underbelly of the garbage world. Although most people want to rid themselves of waste, Garbage Gumbo exposes the corruption and greed that makes waste profitable and desirable. Additionally, Sutherlin shares the stories of the families that are hurt by these actions; the underdogs that many people want to come out on top. Sutherlin’s book is substantiated by the amount of research he gathered to tell this story. All of this is topped off with a little flair that can only be found in Louisiana.
Combining scholarly insight from many fields—public choice logic finds itself intertwined with the technology of environmental innovation and the political economy of rural parishes—with a charmingly personal point of view, John Sutherlin’s Garbage Gumbo skillfully traces the causes and consequences of decades of sluggish environmental policy through the agonizing case of the failed Belle Landfill project. His deep domain expertise makes him particularly adept at linking the various scales of the problem, from individuals up through federal environmental agencies. Sutherlin’s side-splitting anecdotes provide plenty of meat atop the systematic bones of classic policy analysis. Garbage Gumbo will be of particular interest to academics and policymakers interested in environmental politics, even the most casual reader will be hooked into reflecting on the wild and wonky ways policy is made (and not made) by flesh-and-blood human beings. Timely, tragic, and hilarious.
While cynical Americans would readily assert that “politics is garbage,” and indeed in Louisiana we commonly refer to “holding one’s nose” while casting a vote, Sutherlin reminds us that, in ways visible and tactile as well as hidden from public view, “garbage is political.” He looks into who got what by exploring how and why myriad ideas for efficient, effective, and common-sense policies fell victim time and again to “brutal” political interests that could teach Machiavelli and Hobbes a thing or two.