Environmental Inequalities

Environmental Inequalities: Class, Race, and Industrial Pollution in Gary, Indiana, 1945-1980

Andrew Hurley
Copyright Date: 1993
Pages: 266
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  • Book Info
    Environmental Inequalities
    Book Description:

    By examining environmental change through the lens of conflicting social agendas, Andrew Hurley uncovers the historical roots of environmental inequality in contemporary urban America. Hurley's study focuses on the steel mill community of Gary, Indiana, a city that was sacrificed, like a thousand other American places, to industrial priorities in the decades following World War II. Although this period witnessed the emergence of a powerful environmental crusade and a resilient quest for equality and social justice among blue-collar workers and African Americans, such efforts often conflicted with the needs of industry. To secure their own interests, manufacturers and affluent white suburbanites exploited divisions of race and class, and the poor frequently found themselves trapped in deteriorating neighborhoods and exposed to dangerous levels of industrial pollution. In telling the story of Gary, Hurley reveals liberal capitalism's difficulties in reconciling concerns about social justice and quality of life with the imperatives of economic growth. He also shows that the power to mold the urban landscape was intertwined with the ability to govern social relations.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0480-0
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Class, Race, and the Shaping of the Urban Landscape
    (pp. 1-14)

    Georgia Jones awoke to the sounds of sirens on the morning of April 14, 1987. Several hours earlier, two storage tanks containing more than 27,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid had leaked their contents onto the premises of the Gary Products factory, engulfing the surrounding area in a cloud of toxic fumes. In response, civil defense officials organized a mass evacuation of the predominantly African American neighborhood, announcing the emergency with bullhorns and sending buses to remove residents. Upon hearing the news, Jones climbed out of bed, collected about a dozen neighbors, and drove off in a packed car to the...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The Perils of Pollution in the Steel City, 1945-1950
    (pp. 15-45)

    Steel production permeated the environment of Gary, Indiana, during the late 1940s. Every evening the mills presented viewers with a display of giant torches, erupting sparks, and massive factories engraved against a glowing red sky. Day and night, black and red smoke wafted through the atmosphere while oils, greases, and chemicals streaked across rivers and lakes. For those who lived and worked in Gary, pollution was inescapable. And although affiliations of class, race, and ethnicity conditioned individuals’ precise relationship to the environment, the social costs of industrial pollution impinged upon the entire urban population. African Americans, European immigrants, native-born whites,...

  7. Opposition to Blind Progress: Middle-Class Environmentalism
    (pp. 46-76)

    CHAPTER 3 Helen Hoock and Naomi Stern were unlikely candidates to become Gary’s most prominent environmental activists. By 1968, the two women had developed a close friendship based on common experiences and interests. Both were raised in the New York City area, both moved to the suburban community of Miller with their families in the early 1960s, and both joined the League of Women Voters to meet friends with whom they could “talk about something other than children.” Hoock and Stern often invited each other over for tea and chatted about a wide range of contemporary issues, including the civil...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Tired of Working in Pollution and Having It Follow Us Home: Working-Class Environmentalism
    (pp. 77-110)

    Frustrated with organized labor’s apathetic stance toward environmental health issues, Ray Quillen and Don Paulk resigned from their union posts as assistant grievance committeemen in January 1973. After working for over sixteen years in U.S. Steel’s rolling mills, they had seen little reduction in dust and noise levels and they were convinced that furnace emissions were to blame for the heart ailments that had recently disabled three men in their department. Although they held the steel company accountable for creating such hazardous conditions, they were even more disappointed in their union, which showed no inclination to confront plant management on...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Rats, Roaches, and Smoke: African American Environmentalism
    (pp. 111-135)

    When Richard Hatcher, Gary’s first African American mayor, addressed a group of white environmentalists at a 1970 picnic rally for lakeshore preservation, he reminded his audience that blacks did not share their definition of ecology. For blacks, the relevant environmental issues were poor sanitation, overcrowded housing, and vermin. As Hatcher put it, “The mothers of poor babies must consider, in their planning for the night, that in their environment there are rats which may bite their children; that there are roaches which crawl over and spoil any food left unprotected.”¹ Some people in the audience must have wondered at this...

  10. CHAPTER 6 The Rise and Fall of an Environmental Coalition
    (pp. 136-153)

    As the Gary City Council met on the evening of December 15, 1970, to consider an amendment to the municipal air pollution ordinance, 350 angry citizens jammed the legislative chambers. The legislation in question was a bill that would for the first time force U.S. Steel to curb air emissions from its coking ovens. The audience, composed of African Americans from inner-city ghettos, affluent white suburbanites from Miller, and blue-collar families from working-class neighborhoods, represented a cross section of Gary’s population. Public testimony favored the amendment overwhelmingly. A representative from the Calumet Community Congress scolded the steel company for considering...

  11. CHAPTER 7 The Social Geography of Pollution and the Politics of Sand
    (pp. 154-174)

    In the years following World War II, Gary citizens developed a variety of responses to the proliferation of industrial wastes, which as a whole drastically altered the social geography of industrial pollution. While some people could point with satisfaction to noticeable improvements in the quality of their physical surroundings, others found themselves mired in the midst of a rapidly deteriorating environment. In part, the evolving social geography of pollution was a product of demographic change, particularly the differential ability of citizens to relocate to remote suburban communities. But public policy, in the form of environmental laws and regulations, was equally...

  12. Epilogue: Gary and Beyond
    (pp. 175-182)

    Gary appeared a battered city by the 1980s. Shuttered storefronts lined Broadway, interrupted only by the occasional shop selling cheap trinkets, peddling pornography, or offering loans. Across the north side of town and in the neighborhoods of Tolleston and Glen Park, small detached homes that at one time had sheltered prosperous working-class families lay vacant, smothered in fields of overgrown weeds. Even the lakefront suburb of Miller showed signs of dereliction. Due to a lack of maintenance funds, a Japanese footbridge in Marquette Park had collapsed, while the once elegant beachfront bathhouse had begun to crumble.¹ Developments of the 1980s...

  13. Appendix
    (pp. 183-188)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 189-218)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 219-236)
  16. Index
    (pp. 237-246)