It's the Environment, Stupid.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Toxic Sludge in Africa

This article from Monday's NY Times hit my inbox several times as a fwd, "Global Sludge Ends in Tragedy for Ivory Coast."

A toxic, black sludge (petrochemical and caustic soda cocktail) washed up on the Ivory Coast sickening (and killing) local residents. And true to form, those who are responsible for the spillage of this waste are either denying its toxicity or are working hard to point fingers and place blame on someone else.

"How that slick, a highly toxic cocktail of petrochemical waste and caustic soda, ended up in Mr. Oudrawogol’s backyard in a suburb north of Abidjan is a dark tale of globalization. It came from a Greek-owned tanker flying a Panamanian flag and leased by the London branch of a Swiss trading corporation whose fiscal headquarters are in the Netherlands. Safe disposal in Europe would have cost about $300,000, or perhaps twice that, counting the cost of delays. But because of decisions and actions made not only here but also in Europe, it was dumped on the doorstep of some of the world’s poorest people."

A few things that can be taken away from this tragedy:
1) the poor are disproportionately (negatively) affected by waste (or accidental wastes).
2) NIMBY only applies to those with resources (see #1)
3) there needs to be greater adherence to the precautionary principle - if you can't prove a chemical or process not toxic you shouldn't be able to use it.
4) the "environment" is more than just conservation and green spaces, it is about creating healthy living areas for humans.
5) clean up is ALWAYS more costly than prevention.


  • The balance of nature ahs always been a precarious one. Much as I am inclined to support measures ensuring a healthy life for humans, I'd also have to believe that these conditions were there because of humans too. As such, this is exactly like the whole chicken an egg story. I'm in malysia currently and the haze sucks bigtime. Can I link to your blog? I love reading about environmental issues.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 13:36  

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