Diamond: A Struggle for Environmental Justice in Louisiana's Chemical Corridor

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"For years, the residents of Diamond, Louisiana lived with an inescapable acrid, metallic smell - the "toxic bouquet" of pollution - and a mysterious chemical fog that seeped into their houses. They looked out on the massive Norco Industrial Complex, a maze of pipelines, stacks topped by flares burning off excess gas, and huge oil tankers moving up the Mississippi. They experienced headaches, stinging eyes, allergies, asthma, and other respiratory problems, skin disorders, and cancers that they were convinced were caused by their proximity to heavy industry. Periodic industrial explosions damaged their houses and killed some of their neighbors." Steve Lerner talked to the people of Diamond and let them tell their story in their own words. He talked also to the residents of a nearby white neighborhood - many of whom worked for Shell and had fewer complaints about the plants - and to environmental activists and Shell officials. His account of Diamond's 30-year ordeal puts a human face on the struggle for environmental justice in the United States.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Issues of environmental justice and civil rights come to the fore in this fine account of a Louisiana community's battle with its petrochemical company neighbors. Drawing heavily on interviews with residents and local activists, Lerner (Eco-Pioneers) chronicles how the people of Diamond, an African-American subdivision sandwiched between a Shell chemical plant and a Motiva oil refinery in the town of Norco, lobbied Shell (which also owns Motiva) to pay for their relocation after decades of exposure to the plants' toxic emissions. Led by Margie Richards and her Concerned Citizens of Norco, Diamond residents argued that the Shell plants' pollution caused a variety of problems, including kidney and nervous-system damage and lung cancer, while their white neighbors, who lived further from the plants' shadow, tended to dismiss such claims. Lerner charts the growth of a grassroots, community drive to get Shell to recognize its impact on Diamond, the movement's expansion to encompass assistance from national organizations such as Greenpeace and the Sierra Club and its ultimate success in convincing Shell to pay for the relocation of many Diamond residents (though Shell did so without acknowledging that its plants caused health problems). Lerner does an excellent job of explaining concisely both the scientific and the legal issues involved, never slowing down or oversimplifying a compelling and complicated story. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
The Times-Picayune (New Orleans) - Steve Weinberg
Diamond is an important, ultimately inspiring book.
Ruth Rosen - Dissent
Steve Lerner's story of Diamond, Louisiana, is one of the most remarkable tales that has ever been told about the environmental justice movement.
From the Publisher
"'Diamond' is an important, ultimately inspiring book." Steve Weinberg The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)

"Lerner does an excellent job of explaining concisely both the scientific and the legal issues involved... a compelling story." Publishers Weekly

"Steve Lerner's story of Diamond, Louisiana, is one of the most remarkable tales that has ever been told about the environmental justice movement." Ruth Rosen Dissent

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262122733
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2005
  • Series: Urban and Industrial Environments
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Steve Lerner is the author of Eco-Pioneers: Practical Visionaries Solving Today's Environmental Problems (1998) and Diamond: A Struggle for Environmental Justice in Louisiana's Chemical Corridor (2006), both published by the MIT Press.

Robert D. Bullard is Ware Professor of Sociology and Director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University.

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Table of Contents

1 The diamond story 9
2 Early days 13
3 Dangerous neighbor 29
4 Air assault 43
5 Grievances mount 55
6 Local residents organize 67
7 A brief history of Shell 85
8 A company town 95
9 Winds of change 119
10 First moves 127
11 Supporters converge 153
12 A new tool delivers hard evidence 179
13 Helping hands 197
14 The international arena 227
15 Finding agreement 245
16 Lessons learned 263
17 Unfinished business 275
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