by Jeff Saviano, a Prism edito
My ears pricked up when I heard that a lower-income African American community sits right outside Chapel Hill with no clean water and the distasteful side-effects of a garbage dump next door.
It was even more stirringat once unsettling and inspiringto hear the angry complaints of community leaders from this, the Eubanks/Rogers Road neighborhood, at this year's Martin Luther King Jr. March and gathering in downtown Chapel Hill. Since then, local progressive activists have attended many of the neighborhood's community meetings, at the same time introducing us to yet another group of fascinating neighbors about whom we knew little.
Although every good-natured civic leader seemed ready to pledge their support for remedying these problems, I would like to point out that there is a coincidence between residents' willingness to get active and recent moves toward a solution. The provision of water received support, though payment is still an issue; the latest news indicates that County Commissioners are considering a bond proposal to pay for water hook-ups.
There are many very complicated issues which I have heard debated. Early on I heard people arguing whether sewer service should be provided along with water, or would this cause more problems than it solved for the neighborhood and the county? Are there alternate ways of controlling or disposing of waste which are safe, or are many of these technologies oversold? (For example, various incineration technologies.) Are federal Community Development Grants available to pay for water hook-ups? Don't look for easy answers in these pages.
In this section, members of this community take the opportunity to present their own opinions and give their own analyses, thus taking one step to restore the center of debate back to those people affected by these decisions.
Although it has been important to point out publicly the problems faced by Rogers Road / Eubanks residents, it's also important to remember that they have not just been 'victims' in the sense that they are crushed, disempowered, sitting silently and doing nothing.
Rather, they are raising hell and things are starting to happen for them. Power cedes nothing without a challenge.
I'm a non-expert in these debates, but I would add one personal lesson. Talking and meeting with these residents has once again brought home the interconnectedness of issues advocated by those with a mind toward increased democracy and justice.
For example, as Bonnie Norwood points out, every time Orange county residents like myself throw out a trash bag, it more or less winds up in Gertrude Nunn's or Mildred Rogers backyard. Some reply that what is needed is higher tech, modern forms of waste processing. A solution at the end of the trash road. Or that good people need to recycle more, buy less packaging. An individual solution, along the road to the dump.
But what about at the beginning of the road to the dump? What about all those manufacturers who make enormous profits by selling ordinary consumers their products while making people like Gertrude Nunn deal with all the wrappers, the castoffs, the boxes, bags, and foils? Is this fair? I don't think so.
And what about a political and economic and cultural system which encourages us, through decades and decades of advertising, media spin, and outright political propaganda, to imagine that we're all alone with our consumer goods, that we can go out and buy and buy and buy as long as we have the money, and that if there ever is such a thing as pollution it will affect someone else? Someone 'else' like Mrs. Nunn or Mrs. Rogers?
Thanks to those from the neighborhood who presented their views here. I hope that the dialogue continues and that even more links are made between all our local community members who want fairness and adequate representation.
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