Two academic activists peel back the surface of the idyllic resort town of Aspen, Colo., and find a not-so-pretty picture underneath.
Park (Sociology and Asian American Studies/Univ. of Minnesota) and Pellow (Sociology/Univ. of Minnesota) return to the subject of environmental injustice that they explored in The Silicon Valley of Dreams: Environmental Injustice, Immigrant Workers, and the High-Tech Global Economy (2002). “We believe that the rarified, glorified notion of the Aspen idea often hides a whole mountain of ugly truths,” they write, “both in the Rockies and in cities around the world.” Using a wide range of sources—historical records, government documents, local newspapers and extensive interviews with town officers, school teachers, immigration-control officials, social-service providers and many Latino immigrant workers and their families—the authors study the paradox of social contempt for and economic dependence on immigrant labor, and they reveal its root causes and impacts. Park and Pellow examine the link between environmentalism and nativism—i.e., anti-immigration policy, asserting that it is “not just the ardent, vicious, right-wing political forces that support nativist environmentalism: it is often the liberal left-of-center folks who share these ideas as well.” Indeed, they cite the Sierra Club as promoting the message that one of the major environmental problems is the reproductive behavior of women of color. Numerous quotes from immigrant workers reveal the indignities of their labor conditions, and excerpts from editorials and letters to the editor reveal the attitudes of white residents who resent their presence and blame them for a host of environmental and social problems. The authors also look at specific nonprofit organizations attempting to improve the lot of immigrant workers, and other organizations that oppose these attempts. In their conclusion, they call for an end to environmental racism and fresh thinking about the forms of privilege from which many of us benefit.
A clear description of a troubling problem and an important contribution to debates on immigration policy.