The auger
A tool of environmental justice in Ecuadorian toxic tours
in Toxic truths

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.

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Toxic truths

Environmental justice and citizen science in a post-truth age

Editors: Thom Davies and Alice Mah

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