Monday, June 25, 2007

Toxic Tourism

We wrote earlier about "disaster tourism." Well another, related form of tourism that has been used by activists to generate what Stephen Duncombe has called an "ethical spectacle" as well as to galvanize and organize communities around issues of toxicity and environmental racism and injustice. I recently went on a short "Toxic Tour" in Champaign, Illinois, looking at how racism has negatively impacted the north side of the city disproportionately in both environmental and social ways, from police brutality to contaminated surroundings.
A new book by Phaedra C. Pezzullo from the University of Alabama Press is the first (that I'm aware of) scholarly book on the subject
Using guided tours as a form of organizing and educating like this is a tactic somewhat widely explored, so I thought I'd post a few examples that include artists and activists' work.
- Sharon Stewart's early 1990s "Toxic Tour of Texas" is probably the first I became aware of.
- Free Soil's "Gardening Superfund Sites Bus Tour"
- Invisible 5 audio tour of California's I-5 Highway
- Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition Toxic Tour
- Ground Work's (South Africa) Household Toxic Tour
- Baltimore Toxic Tour on Youtube
- The Southern California Communities for a Better Environment's Toxic Tours
- Toxic Tourism in Tucson (an article that includes comments by noted Environmental Justice scholar Robert Bullard)
- in San Francisco
Obviously there are more...


Phaedra C. Pezzullo said...

Great blog posts and design! I'm always happy to discover more people interested in talking about tourism, especially noncommercial, toxic, and advocacy tours.

As you note, toxic tours in person, on-line, and in videos are popular advocacy tools for environmental justice communities. This year is the twentieth anniversary of a landmark study that confirmed the systemic patterns of environmental racism communities long had suspected. To commemorate the original report and raise publicity for the new one, they organized a toxic tour in Detroit, Michigan, this month, which I've heard was incredibly moving.

ryan griffis said...

Thanks for the comment Dr. Pezzullo! Your Toxic Tourism book is definitely on our to-get reading list.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know there was such a thing as toxic tourism before reading this post. Good thing I came across your post as I was browsing at our virtual office malaysia.

Billy S. said...

I think the problem of toxicity can be solved if the tour organizers and the travelers are both mature enough to understand the sensitivity of these places. Setting the place in such a way that avoids promoting environmental racism and injustice will be a good start.

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