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Battling Over Race, Class, and the Environment

by Colin Crawford

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-201-62723-X
Publisher: Addison-Wesley

 A blow-by-blow account of a rural southern community's fight to keep toxic waste out of its backyard. First-time author Crawford, an environmental lawyer and advocate, has a charged story to tell, full of complications. One is the strange coalition of forces that sought to bring what was to have been one of the nation's largest toxic-waste facilities to Noxubee County, Miss., whose population is largely black and poor: Big-city hustlers, working in alliance with local entrepreneurs, one of them a black political organizer named Ike Brown, ``the county's Al Sharpton, or its Savonarola, or its Boss Tweed.'' Another is the equally unlikely coalition of forces that gathered to stop the facility from being built: Some of the county's wealthiest white residents, the descendants of plantation owners, as well as its poorest black sharecroppers. Crawford tells the story of their battle exceedingly well; it's a tale that takes fascinating political twists and turns. The opposition forces have helped change the face of local politics, if only at the personal level--``I never imagined I would see Miss Mildred walking down the street with a black person,'' one activist remarks of a doyenne who overcame a lifetime of prejudice to battle the threat to her home. Whether those forces will succeed in keeping the dump out remains to be seen, as the fight moves into the courts. Apart from the fact that toxic-waste dumps are almost certain to leak into the groundwater after a decade or two, Crawford notes that such a dump would be especially ill advised in Noxubee County--with ``some of the nation's best farmland and a future source of our food security.'' An important contribution to the growing literature of environmental degradation and racism, and a fine case study in local politics. (b&w photos, not seen)