Global Threats to People of Color
Dana Alston and Nicole Brown
Throughout the history of development, colonial powers and transnational corporations alike have exploited natural resources for their own profit and power with little regard for the social, political, and environmental impacts on local groups. While long overdue, mainstream environmental and conservation organizations have recently started to identify the global links among social, economic, and environmental problems. Slogans like "We are all in this together," "the circle of poison," and "everyone's backyard" are used with increasing frequency in their conversations.
Yet, this rhetoric does not quite get at the problem. It often seems to suggest the problems of environmental degradation are shared equally by all people. If we examine environmental issues internationally, the same domestic pattern of disproportionate exposure to environmental hazards and degradation exists worldwide among those who are nonwhite, poor, less educated, and politically less powerful. This international linkage between poverty, race, and environmental degradation can be even more clearly defined when exploring specific global issues such as the environmental impact of war, underground nuclear testing, and the exportation of hazardous industries and waste. The extractive nature of modernization and industrialization also contributes to the accelerated degradation of the environment around the world. Let's look at each of these problems in turn.
The war in the Persian Gulf demonstrated once again how international events are affected by domestic issues and vice versa. To find lasting solutions to the problem of environmental degradation at home, global issues must be addressed in many places simultaneously.
One reason for this is that ecological deterioration and warfare are inextricably linked. As warfare occurs, natural resources are destroyed