Dr. Ingrid R. G. Waldron is a sociologist and Associate Professor in the School of Nursing at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. There’s Something in the Water is an academic and community-participant based study of environmental racism in the Indigenous and African-Canadian communities in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Waldron acknowledges that the environmental racism movement in Canada has its roots in the United States. That movement in the U.S. began in Houston, Texas where in 1979 a group of African-Americans filed a civil rights suit, Bean vs. Southwestern Waste Management, Inc., in protest to a proposed siting of a landfill in their neighborhood. The term itself, “environmental racism,” is credited to Rev. Benjamin Chavis, who, in 1981, took action against a proposed toxic waste site slated for a largely African American community in North Carolina.
And much like the environmental racism found in the U.S. among Indigenous and African American communities has roots in invasion and enslavement, Waldron draws the same connections between historical oppression and environmental racism in Canada.
The author highlights the relationship between invasion, colonialism, settler-colonialism, enslavement, and systemic racism and the environmental invasion of poisons and toxins in the communities of Mi’Kimaq and other indigenous groups and the African-Canadian communities in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Waldron asserts that environmental racism is nothing more than an extension and continuation of invasion and enslavement.
“…industries choose impoverished areas with lower property values because they are able to reduce business costs, and because these areas are industrial wastelands. They offer low-paying and potentially hazardous jobs to residents in low-income and poor communities that are experiencing high unemployment and have few options to leave polluted neigborhoods…” pg. 70 from the chapter “Not in My Backyard.”
With the participation of individuals from the Mi’Kimaq and African-Canadian communities, Waldon is able to detail the effects that the invasion of toxins and contaminants has on the health of the bodies and minds of the Indigenous and African-Canadians, and on bodies of waters and bodies of other beings in the natural world. Even with the overwhelming amount of evidence of the existence of environmental racism, evidence and studies (hard data) that has been brought before the Canadian government, the environmental racism movement continues to expand, as its work seems only to have just begun.
What the book highly implies is how the people who have been most affected by invasion, colonialism, settler colonialism, and enslavement must present evidence to those who represent and manage the system built on invasion, colonization and enslavement for relief. It’s similar to something that is stated in A Course of Love, something to the effect that it is impossible ‘to argue the case of truth in the courtroom of illusion.’
“…the state is inherently racial because it organizes space based on its interpretation of race, and instead of addressing conflicts emerging from racial hierarchies and inequalities, it is a driving force in sustaining those hierarchies and inequalities.” pg. 45 from the chapter “A History of Violence.”
For anyone interested in the environmental justice movement in Canada, this book provides a sound foundational introduction. It provides the findings of research and studies that are connected to environmental racism/justice that the average reader is unlikely to encounter.
Here is a link to a recent lecture of Waldon’s that may be of interest: https://vimeo.com/296021743
And I am adding this book to the Stewards of Earth & Home reading list below.
Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge, Vandana Shiva
Ceremony, Leslie Marmon Silko
Confronting Environmental Racism: Voices from the Grassroots, Robert D. Bullard, editor.
For This Land: Writings on Religion in America, Vine Deloria, Jr.
God is Red: A Native View of Religion, Vine Deloria, Jr.
Nature and Madness, Paul Shepard
One-Straw Revolution: The Philosophy and Work of Masanobu Fukuoka, Larry Korn.
Planet Walker: 17 Years of silence; 22 years of walking, John Francis, Ph.D.
Replenishing the Earth: Spiritual Values for Healing Ourselves and the World, Wangari Maathai
Resistance Against Empire: Interviews, Derrick Jensen
Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming The African American Environmental Heritage, Diane D. Glave
The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter & Miracles, Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D.
The Hidden Messages in Water, Masaru Emoto
The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible, Charles Eisenstein
The Myth of Human Supremacy, Derrick Jensen
The Natural Alien: Humankind and Environment, 2nd edition, Neil Evernden
The Primal Mind: Vision and Reality in Indian America, Jamake Highwater
There’s Something in the Water, Ingrid R.G. Waldron
Red Earth, White Lies: Native Americans and the Myth of Scientific Fact, Vine Deloria
*The Social Creation of Nature, Neil Evernden
*Books that I have not yet read. In the case of Evernden’s book, it might be a minute. I picked it up and put it down, unable to get through the first chapter. I’ll try reading and reviewing it at a later date.