I was talking with my daughter about ADD. She said that studies reveal that a 30 minute walk in the morning through the forest or the woods contributes mightily to a sense of calm and well-being throughout the day for children with this difference. Imagine that! This revelation points to the ideas discussed in Paul Sheppard’s Nature and Madness: our relationship with the Earth is indispensable to our planetary lives. The sights, the sounds, the feelings generated by and in that relationship is as necessary as the vitamins and minerals we require each day to sustain the body.
Of course, this necessary relationship with forests/woods has implications for all of us, not simply those with ADD. How many of us get in our cars, commute to work, see nothing but expressway, hear nothing but traffic to arrive at work, to sit in buildings, 8 hours a day, many in rooms without windows? It’s not simply white collar jobs either: we commute to construction sites, to hospitals, to school buildings, to prisons; train and bus operators commute to city transportation garages without passing through a forest or the woods. Understandably, most transportation workers do not operate routes that even pass through forests or woods.
Let’s take it a bit further. What is the impact of waking up in the morning to the sound of the ocean? To a river? To the sound of the waves hitting against the rocks? What is the relationship between us and bodies of water, and how do they contribute to our well-being, and ours to theirs? Can 20 minutes of listening to the ocean impact our day? Can a routine walk through a dense forest affect what we do after we exit that forest?
These are some of the questions that are being raised in the dialogue about stewardship, and our mostly unconscious awareness of our relationship with the planet. But this is not what this article is about.
This is about Louisiana’s Cancer Alley, a case of environmental racism. The River Parishes of Louisiana sit along a strip of industrial plants. Of course the name “Cancer Alley” stems from cases of cancer suffered by the residents of these parishes, all black. The EPA reported that the town has the highest risk of cancer from air toxins. In the spring of 2018, the death of Keith Hunter, who fought with officials to see the impact that the industrial plants were having on the health of residents, brought more national attention to not only Louisiana’s Cancer Alley, but to environmental racism in the U.S.
Included here are three links: the article about the death of Keith Hunter https://www.desmogblog.com/2018/03/31/death-louisiana-cancer-alley-reinforces-st-james-fears-industry-impacts; second is the “Cancer Alley Documentary,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxjv4henlzQ. Finally, a link to the “NPR” article, “After Decades Of Air Pollution, A Louisiana Town Rebels Against A Chemical Giant” https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/03/06/583973428/after-decades-of-air-pollution-a-louisiana-town-rebels-against-a-chemical-giant.
I have a book in my cart on Amazon which I will probably read during the winter: There’s Something in the Water: Environmental Racism in Indigenous and Black Communities, by Ingrid W. G. Waldron. From the reviews that I’ve read, this is an excellent treatise on environmental racism. So I’ll see if I can review it in the next issue, winter 2018.