Mac Shaffer PCB Story Photos 0146

In this podcast, “Living Downstream Visits the Birthplace of Environmental Justice,” you heard about the intersection of environmentalism and social justice when a grassroots coalition formed to resist the decision in 1978 by the state of North Carolina. Their plan to dump toxic materials in Warren County was not erased, but was significantly scaled back because of neighbors’ activism. 

For listeners who want to know more about global instances of environmental justice, the trend in waste site locations, environmental racism, the organization Working Landscapes and other subjects discussed in this podcast, we provide additional links below. 

[Image: Anti-PCB demonstration 1982. Credit: Mac Shaffer]

Environmental Justice, a project funded by the European Union, maps global environmental justice conflicts and provides scientific papers based on the Environmental Justice Atlas, a database maintained by the project. EJAtlas is an interactive map of 2,816 reported cases of environmental justice conflicts around the world. This database was created as a resource for teaching, networking and advocacy. This map includes the PCB contamination in Warren County as one of its locations.

A private company dumped its waste Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) in Warren County. But what are PCBs? What are the adverse health effects of PCBs? Journalist Joe O’Connell says by the late 1970s, the darker side of PCBs was revealed. Researchers linked PCBs to a slew of negative health effects and the EPA banned their production altogether. The EPA provides information about PCBs including what they are, how they’re used and what their health effects are.

This podcast emphasizes the increase in environmental consciousness following the Warren County environmental justice movement. However, another major point is the centuries long history of exploitation in this wealthy county built on the backs of slaves. It is no coincidence that Afton, a small, rural African American community in Warren County, was chosen as a waste disposal location. In fact, researchers at the University of Michigan have found that income and race are major factors in choosing hazardous waste sites. The Nation also discusses environmental racism, providing a graphic and discussing this trend in the context of Flint’s water crisis. 

Growing gardens that are accessible to low-income families, Working Landscapes brings social equity to Warren County. The nonprofit organization uses farming to boost the county’s economy and keep the people and the environment healthy. Read more about how Working Landscapes works to rebuild a food system in the birthplace of environmental justice.

A quick guide to the resources linked on this page:

Northern California
Public Media Newsletter

Get the latest updates on programs and events.