Sunday, July 26, 2009

Routing by Cadillac - Environmental Injustice Lives On

There is a power line being built in Idaho and Wyoming. Building something that stretches over miles of land is always hugely controversial since it impacts all types of people. When routing in eastern Wyoming, the routers came into a problem. A major land-owner had property that was in the way. The Wyoming state official working with the routers paled and said that it was not possible to go through his property. There it is, Money IS Speech after all. This is infuriating since it represents the continued existence of the same environmental injustice that puts toxic waste dumps in poor areas and uses freeway building projects as slum clearance.

Routing by Cadillac is the idea that you look at the number of Cadillac cars in the driveway of a house and base your decision on whether to put the power line through there on that. This means, in other words, richer people do not have to pay their fair share of the cost of a public good of which they nevertheless derive benefit. While in my experience this is funnier when it happens under Republicans (since they believe that all people have equal access to power and the ability to better themselves) it is more ironic when it happens to Democrats (for obvious reasons). We are, overall, ok with this since we are a mostly middle-class country and even my family successfully fought off a cell-phone tower that was going to adversely effect us, largely from political connections.

I believe that we need people who are community organizers who explain how to organize, the time commitments, why the issue is important, etc. The person must be humble and clear and have only the goal of helping the community define its own fate. In my understanding, everyone who ever approaches an issue from a position of believing that they know more than the people with whom they are working, fails to cause any real change.

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