Open Access (free)
A tool of environmental justice in Ecuadorian toxic tours
Amelia Fiske

Drawing on scholarship in citizen science that has documented the enrollment of lay practices of knowledge production to denounce assemblages of capitalism, pollution, and inequality, this chapter turns to “toxic tours” in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Toxic tours began informally in the 2000s by a non-profit organization affiliated with the plaintiffs in the Aguinda v. Texaco lawsuit. In these tours, Donald Moncayo takes journalists, tourists, lawyers, and politicians to visit contaminated oil sites, using ordinary objects to assist visitors in seeing, smelling, and touching oil pollution for the first time: a glove, a long stick, a large recycled water bottle, a hand auger. These assorted tools work together to enable a direct engagement with the materiality of toxicity and legacies of extraction that would not otherwise be possible. In focusing on ordinary tools, this chapter brings the auger to bear on the public discernment of contamination and accountability, exploring how questions of industrial contamination are adjudicated, and what tools of knowledge production illuminate and what they occlude in the process. Toxic tours constitute a critical move beyond a notion of toxicity based on the triad of causality, individual bodies, and bounded environments, and toward conceptions based on porosity, relationality, and justice.

in Toxic truths
Peter C. Little

Drawing on ethnographic research in Agbogbloshie, an urban scrapyard in Accra, Ghana that has become the subject of a contentious global electronic waste (e-waste) narrative, this chapter explores the extent to which participatory photography augments contemporary toxic studies in general and e-waste studies in particular. The chapter contends that engaging with participatory visualization and documentation can provide vital contextualization for debates grappling with the toxic injustices and environmental politics of e-waste labor. It explores how and why visual techniques in participatory action research matter in global environmental justice studies in general and postcolonial e-waste studies in Ghana in particular. The chapter engages several questions, including: What happens when e-waste workers are involved image makers? What does this participatory photography do to and for representations of Agbogbloshie? To what extent can this alternative visualization shift understandings of a place and space that has become a central node of global e-wasteland and digital pollution narratives? Moreover, how does engagement with this alternative approach to witnessing and knowing e-waste draw attention to or renew critical discussion of researcher positionality and ethnographic reflexivity?

in Toxic truths
The “Clean City” law in São Paulo, Brazil
Marina Da Silva

This chapter discusses “visual pollution” by using São Paulo’s “Cidade Limpa” (Clean City) law as a case study. The law, enacted in 2007, aims to fight “visual pollution” yet fails to define the term. The project builds on work Da Silva previously conducted in São Paulo’s public space. By identifying different viewpoints and enactments of “visual pollution,” this chapter analyzes how interdisciplinary methodologies and public engagement can connect different types of expertise to explore what is understood as visual pollution, and furthermore its relation to the ownership of public space and urban environment. The methodology used in the research questions epistemologically the power relations existent in the idea of pollution and public well-being raised by the law. Finally, this chapter discusses the relationship between São Paulo’s social structure, environmental justice, and the idea of visual pollution.

in Toxic truths
The case of air quality monitoring in a Spanish industrial area
Miguel A. López-Navarro

Over the past decade, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have gained importance in the political arena. In the business and society discourse, collaboration is now the dominant articulation in NGO–business relationships. However, understanding how NGOs construct their discourses and manage their adversarial relationships, and analyzing under what conditions confrontation can lead to favorable solutions to social and environmental problems are research questions that remain unanswered. This research draws on a case study in a Spanish industrial region to analyze how a local environmental group articulates and legitimizes a confrontational strategy based on a scientific study of air quality instigated by the group and carried out by independent experts. The chapter also examines the environmental advances achieved as a result, and evaluates the responses from the industry and the regional government. The findings confirm that confrontational spaces can lead to advances in solving environmental problems. The study also contributes to the literature by identifying the key factors that favored the environmental group’s legitimacy and the effectiveness of its confrontational strategy. Moreover, this research shows how confrontational strategies do not necessarily exclude dialogue or the possibility of actively participating in multi-stakeholder deliberative processes.

in Toxic truths
From the development of a national surveillance system to the birth of an international network
Roberto Pasetto and Ivano Iavarone

This chapter discusses the birth and evolution of a national epidemiological monitoring system of communities affected by contaminated sites, developed in Italy. First, it describes the process of postwar industrialization and the environmental contamination in Italian industrial areas, reporting an exemplary case study. Then, it explains the characteristics of the epidemiological monitoring program created and improved to respond to requests from local authorities in order to understand whether, and to what extent, the health of their residents was at risk in areas contaminated by the industries. The chapter also discusses the usefulness of the monitoring system in promoting environmental justice, since most of the communities affected by contamination were socioeconomically fragile. Finally, it describes how the experience developed at a national level has helped in promoting an international network of researchers and experts from public health institutions, universities, and environmental agencies on the theme of contaminated sites and health.

in Toxic truths
Open Access (free)
Strategic actions of an environmental organization in China
Xinhong Wang and Yuanni Wang

This chapter is a case study of an environmental protection volunteers’ organization based in Hunan Province of China. Analyzing actions taken by the organization, the chapter discusses how “pushback” and negotiation are two major strategies for promoting public interest and solving environmental problems. Aiming to continuously and effectively push local government to rectify environmental problems, the environmental organization uses the media as a platform and pushback as a strategy to attract government attention and form an inter-dependable relationship and a soft confrontation between themselves and the government. During the process of negotiating with the government, they also continue with the strategy of pushback to maintain the upper hand, thus achieving a balance of autonomy and dependency. The chapter concludes that this integrated strategy of pushback and negotiation, in a form “soft confrontation,” has played an effective role in the interactions between the environmental organization and the government.

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Tribal identity, civic dislocation, and environmental health research
Elizabeth Hoover

This chapter explores the experience of the Mohawk community of Akwesasne, a Native American tribe who set out to determine the extent to which a local contaminated site was impacting community health. Akwesasne community members reached out to a research university, eventually partnering on the first large-scale environmental health community-based participatory research project (CBPR) to be conducted in a tribal community. Based on interviews with scientists, community fieldworkers, and study participants, this chapter examines the ways in which collaborating on these studies was beneficial for all parties – especially in the context of citizen science goals of education and capacity building – as well as the challenges they faced, including communicating the limits of what scientific studies could accomplish for the community. Hoover also explores how the binaries between citizen and scientist, between subject and researcher were blurred during this research process, through creating a “third space of sovereignty.” This case study in CBPR and citizen science also leads us to intentionally consider the social, cultural, and political processes that structure research in an Indigenous community, and calls on us to question what we mean by the “citizen” in citizen science.

in Toxic truths
Open Access (free)
Reframing “sensing” and data generation in citizen science for empowering relationships
João Porto de Albuquerque and André Albino de Almeida

This chapter investigates an intrinsic ambivalence in the use of digital technologies by citizen science projects: the often-used “citizen sensor” metaphor can either mean a heightened capacity to perceive and articulate an alternative world view (and thus results in empowerment); or it can connote that the citizen’s capabilities are constrained to capture predefined environmental signals (and thus implies instrumentality). Drawing on Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed alongside some of his later works, a new perspective on citizen sensing is presented that goes beyond epistemological concerns to address the types of relationships established with citizens, that is, their modes of engagement. Instead of obfuscating asymmetries in the relationships between citizens and scientists, it is argued that a Freirean perspective entails considering asymmetries as a constitutive and productive tension within a dialogical process of knowledge co-production. This dialogical approach enables the development of new methods and ethical-methodological criteria for citizen-generated data projects that are effectively able to empower citizens to leverage their realities, world views, and epistemologies – particularly those of marginalized and disadvantaged people and of the “global South.”

in Toxic truths
Constructing environmental (in)justice
Anneleen Kenis

In their efforts to put air pollution on the public agenda, citizens cannot avoid engaging with science. Being a largely invisible socio-natural artifact, air has to be discursively translated to become politically salient. Through a comparative analysis of the air pollution mobilizations in two cities, Antwerp (Belgium) and London (UK), the chapter illuminates the political effects of the choices citizen movements make in this process of translation. Delving into the discursive strategies of the mobilizations in both cities, the chapter shows how specific scientific focuses, interpretations of findings, and their spatial framings, can feed into the construction of diverging claims on environmental justice and the advocacy of different types of action. But the opposite is also true, it seems: a preference for specific measures can lead to a focus on particular scientific interpretations. Starting from these observations, the chapter discusses the complex interwovenness of science, politics, and justice claims in dealing with largely invisible issues like air pollution.

in Toxic truths
Environmental enumeration, justice, and apprehension
Nicholas Shapiro, Nasser Zakariya, and Jody A. Roberts

This chapter resituates discussions of community-based science beyond the emancipatory rhetoric of democratization, creative commons, and the blurring of the bulwarks of expertise to include consideration of the potentially constrictive instrumentalist scientific idiom produced by and through these practices. This chapter asks: what are the approaches to apprehending the environment that might not so easily boil down to binaries of benevolence or harm, or to renderings of uncertainty confined to the specifications of statistical confidence intervals, that in turn justify further scientific inquiry? We gesture toward an expansive conversation that we call “inviting apprehension.” Such approaches beckon multiple strata of apprehending the environment to provoke public inquiry and intervention into the questions that undergird what we assume are the problems of today and the avenues through which we must engage them.

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