In his recent address to the DC Environmental Network, 2011 Lillian Smith Book Award Recipient Steve Lerner discussed his recent book, Sacrifice Zones: The Front Lines of Toxic Chemical Exposure in the United States.
"Across the United States, thousands of people, most of them in low-income or minority communities, live next to heavily polluting industrial sites. Many of them, like Ruth Reed, reach a point at which they say "Enough is enough." After living for years with poisoned air and water, contaminated soil, and pollution-related health problems, they start to take action—organizing, speaking up, documenting the effects of pollution on their neighborhoods. "
"In Sacrifice Zones, Steve Lerner tells the stories of twelve communities, from Brooklyn to Pensacola, that rose up to fight the industries and military bases causing disproportionately high levels of chemical pollution. He calls these low-income neighborhoods "sacrifice zones"—repurposing a Cold War term coined by U.S. government officials to designate areas contaminated with radioactive pollutants during the manufacture of nuclear weapons. And he argues that residents of a new generation of sacrifice zones, tainted with chemical pollutants, need additional regulatory protections."
"Studies show that poor and minority neighborhoods are more polluted than wealthier areas located farther away from heavy industry. Sacrifice Zones goes beyond these disheartening statistics and gives us the voices of the residents themselves. We hear from people like Margaret L. Williams, who organized her neighbors to demand relocation away from two Superfund hazardous waste sites; Hilton Kelley, who came back to his hometown to find intensified emissions from the Exxon Mobil refinery next to the housing project in which he grew up; and Laura Ward, who found technicians drilling a hole in her backyard to test groundwater for pollution from the nearby Lockheed Martin weapons plant. Sacrifice Zones offers compelling portraits of accidental activists who have become grassroots leaders in the struggle for environmental justice and details the successful tactics they have used on the fence line with heavy industry."