Monday, March 1, 2010

Environmental Justice and Chicago

I found an article on the Chicago Tribune, “Altgeld Gardens resident is ailing, and her daughter still battles to clean up community,” that explains the struggles of an organization to fight the environmental and health hazards affecting a working class community in Chicago. This article is related to what we have discussed in the class for the unit of Chicago. In Alan Trachtenberg’s “The White City” we read and discussed the difference between the White City that business leaders and politicians promoted and the real Chicago. The White City was a controlled, unified space, while Chicago was far from organized; there were labor issues, corrupt city politics, and a financial crisis happening at the same time the gates of the world’s fair opened. “ The irony of opening its gates almost at the exact moment in May 1893 when banks and factories closed theirs in the worst financial panic of the nation’s history only highlights the contrast, the dialogue of opposites between the Fair and the surrounding city, between White City and the great city of Chicago” (Trachtenberg 211). Similar to this, the newspaper article shows the organization’s struggle to address public health issues of inequality, because while some communities in Chicago enjoy the privileges of sanitary living conditions, the poorer communities, such as the community in which Johnson lives, lack plumbing and drain pipes. “She learned that her section of Chicago had the highest incidence of cancer in the city. She learned that the 190-acre Altgeld was surrounded by about 50 documented landfills, and that there were more than 250 leaking underground storage tanks […].” Chicago, like any other city, has a history of class inequalities, where working-class families suffer health and environmental issues because these communities are ignored.,0,4675979.column

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