In Garbage Wars, the sociologist David Pellow describes the politics of garbage in Chicago. He shows how garbage affects residents in vulnerable communities and poses health risks to those who dispose of it. He follows the trash, the pollution, the hazards, and the people who encountered them in the period 1880-2000. What unfolds is a tug of war among social movements, government, and industry over how we manage our waste, who benefits, and who pays the costs.
Studies demonstrate that minority and low-income communities bear a disproportionate burden of environmental hazards. Pellow analyzes how and why environmental inequalities are created. He also explains how class and racial politics have influenced the waste industry throughout the history of Chicago and the United States. After examining the roles of social movements and workers in defining, resisting, and shaping garbage disposal in the United States, he concludes that some environmental groups and people of color have actually contributed to environmental inequality.
By highlighting conflicts over waste dumping, incineration, landfills, and recycling, Pellow provides a historical view of the garbage industry throughout the life cycle of waste. Although his focus is on Chicago, he places the trends and conflicts in a broader context, describing how communities throughout the United States have resisted the waste industry's efforts to locate hazardous facilities in their backyards. The book closes with suggestions for how communities can work more effectively for environmental justice and safe, sustainable waste management.
About the Author
David Naguib Pellow is Don A. Martindale Endowed Chair in Sociology at the University of Minnesota. Among his books are the award-winning Garbage Wars: The Struggle for Environmental Justice in Chicago (MIT Press, 2002) and Power, Justice, and the Environment: A Critical Appraisal of the Environmental Justice Movement (coedited with Robert Brulle; MIT Press, 2005.)
“...insightfully assesses the ability of those at the bottom of the heap to mount an effective resistance for environmental justice.”—Jack Smith, Environment
“...An indispensable book for anyone interested in waste...or the continued effects of racism and classism in American society.”—Elizabeth D. Blum, The Public Historian
“This is one of the most original, thought-provoking works on environmental justice that I have seen in some time. Its significance lies in Pellow's unique ability to get at the often unspoken issues that affect the movement and its future direction.”
—Jim Schwab, American Planning Association, author of Deeper Shades of Green
“Garbage Wars provides a detailed and fascinating historical account of an important environmental issue. David Pellow demonstrates that links between waste disposal and environmental injustice are not a recent phenomenon but rather have existed for a century and more. He shows that environmental inequalities result from a complex struggle among multiple stakeholders with varying interests and access to power. This is a truly groundbreaking work that uncovers the roots of an important environmental and social problem.”
—Paul Mohai, School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan
Co-winner of the 2002 C. Wright Mills Award, presented by the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP)