Tasers Are No Magic Bullet - Top 10 Reasons to Say NO to Berkeley Police with Tasers | Berkeley Daily Planet

thepeoplesrecord:

After each mishap or tragedy that occurs these days in Berkeley, we are told that it could have been averted “if only” the police had been issued tasers. The mayor of Berkeley made this claim after six Berkeley police killed a mentally ill transgender woman in her own home last year. BPD officers made the same claim again when a mentally ill man stabbed himself several times. This week, Chris Stines of the Berkeley Police Association (BPA) went to great pains to spread the notion that if a Berkeley police officer had had a taser this past week, he wouldn’t have been assaulted. It is regrettable that the BPA uses these incidents as nothing more than a way to win political points. The issue of how to protect officers as well as the human rights of the citizenry is far more complex than simply giving cops more hardware on their belts.

Of course, these kinds of statements can never be proven. No one can know whether a taser would have prevented the confrontation in which the officer was involved in a fistfight with a suspect who was believed to be mentally ill. The BPA continues to apply steady political pressure to our local politicians and insists that somehow, real safety resides in our ability to meet suspects with electric shocks. At Berkeley Copwatch, we disagree. We believe that it is the duty of the officers to place the well being of the community at the forefront of their efforts. We believe that mentally ill people have a right to treatment and should not be subjected to torture because of a condition which they do not control. It is time for the City of Berkeley to return to the humane approaches for which it was once famous and reject the militarization of care which has overtaken our approach to community health and safety.

Top Ten Reasons to say NO to Tasers

1. Tasers are a “sometimes lethal” weapon. There have been at least 547 deaths related to the use of tasers by law enforcement since 2001, according to the human rights agency Amnesty International. It is also reported that 90% of those who died were unarmed. TASER International, the main manufacturer of tasers, has begin issuing on its website a new warning to law enforcement, stating that its conducted electrical weapon “can cause death or serious injury.” Tasers used on most people harbor few long-term effects, but they are deadly for a small minority. Their use should be considered potentially lethal and limited to only those situations in which lethal force would have been justified.

2. Police already have an alternative. They can use their pepper spray. In 1997, the Berkeley Police made a campaign to obtain pepper spray. This they claimed was the best alternative to deadly force. If this was true, then why are we now being asked to finance yet another round of the latest torture technology? Why can’t we invest in longer term, more humane approaches to community safety? According to Chris Stines, police only needed to use their pepper spray three times last year. If so, then is it worth spending a few hundred thousand dollars to equip a department for three incidents a year?

3. Cops can’t tell if there are underlying medical conditions. Studies by the American Medical Association confirm that tasers CAN cause heart attacks. Taser International also warns that tasers should not be used on people who are pregnant, on drugs, have asthma or who have heart problems. How can officers know if there is an underlying medical condition? They can’t. That is the problem. They are playing a lethal game of chance each time they use them.

4. Not a substitute for critical analysis of police strategies and training. While we are glad that Berkeley officer Jeff Shannon is recovering from his encounter last week, we do not see how a taser would have saved him. For some unknown reason, the officer went to this call alone. It is rare that a traffic stop in Berkeley attracts less than 2-4 officers. Why did officer Shannon answer this call alone? His attacker surprised him and having a taser would not have changed that. According to press reports, the attacker was attempting to ignite a liquid. A taser blast on a flammable liquid could ignite (and has in the past) causing an even greater risk to the officer, the suspect and the public.

5. The city increases its liability exposure. TASER International knows that this is a lethal weapon. They are covering themselves legally by issuing warnings about the lethal capacity of these weapons. In one month alone in 2013, five law enforcement agencies in North Texas announced they had discontinued using Tasers or were reviewing their policy regarding the weapons. The city of San Francisco declined to adopt tasers and opted to seek a truly non-lethal alternative. Across the country, agencies are reviewing their policies or seeking alternatives as a way of reducing their exposure to lawsuits.

6. Mentally ill people are 2-4 times more likely to be tasered. A study by the New York Civil Liberties Union found that 30% of the people tasered in New York were identified as being mentally ill. How does the Berkeley Police department treat the mentally ill? With a desperate lack of emergency mental health services, police are often called upon to deal with emergency situations. At this point, our police chief sanctions the inhumane practice of hooding of mentally ill individuals and allows officers to engage in this practice without even have a policy on the use of such hoods. We fear that this lack of regard for the human rights of the mentally ill would extend to the way officers are empowered to use tasers.

7. People of color are more likely to be tasered. African Americans are only 13.6% of the total population, yet represent 45% of the 2009-2014 taser-related deaths in America. In Albany, New York, 28% of the population is African American, yet they are 68% of those Tasered. Racial profiling exists. Sadly, Berkeley Police don’t even keep data on the race/ethnicity of people they stop so we can’t even track the degree to which policies are implemented in racist ways.

8. We have a crisis of accountability for police. “Well, if a Berkeley officer acts out of line, why not just file a complaint?” you might ask. At this time, police accountability in this city (and state) is almost non-existent. Due to a California Supreme Court decision in the mid 1990’s called Copley Press vs. The City of San Diego, civilian review was severely limited, and in the city of Berkeley, it was decimated. These days, it is a minor miracle when an officer actually has a complaint sustained against him or her. If we put tasers into the hands of police, we will be powerless to even know whether or not they are being misused by police, let alone to actually punish an officer who deliberately misuses a taser.

9. The Berkeley Police Association has conducted a misleading, high profile campaign. The BPA touts a “survey” claiming to show that 83 percent of Berkeley residents support investigating the use of tasers to restrain violent individuals. It is useful to note that the survey was given to a select group of people from the BPA over email. The very biased questions yielded the desired results, but did nothing to help us build a community wide approach to emergency mental health services.

10. If someone dies from taser exposure, the DA won’t necessarily investigate because they only investigate firearms deaths. The employees in the District Attorney’s office explained this strange policy to us when we asked why the death of Kayla Moore was not being investigated. We know that there will be no justice for those who are wrongly tased and die as a result. It is sad, but it is the truth of the matter.

From our perspective, tasers only make sense if they are identified as lethal force and their use is limited to those situations in which lethal force would be justified. The problem is that far too often, tasers are used to overcome resistance to officer commands. It is common to read about officers who used tasers on people in cars, people who didn’t act quickly enough, or on people who asked “why?” one too many times. They have been used on children as young as eight and old people into their 80’s. They are known to be lethal.

We must raise the standard of what we consider to be real community safety and work to ensure that the safety of everyone in our community is of importance.

(Source)

america-wakiewakie:

(Photo Credit: Bruno Ferreira, a Mexican artist from the state of Veracruz)

america-wakiewakie:

(Photo Credit: Bruno Ferreira, a Mexican artist from the state of Veracruz)

america-wakiewakie:

Capitalist economics are so goddamn annoying because all this market talk, which is far from lost on me, essentially divorces human material needs from people, dehumanizing us into variables in algorithms that always — always — marginalize and disempower us from our natural rights to community, food, and shelter. All done, mind you, under the false pretense that it is a science, a lie if I ever saw one. This is how we come to endless quarrels amongst academics about “the nature of man” and what have you, about the immutable laws of scarcity, and while some is legitimate and a whole lot is posturing nonsense, erasure of the exploited serves as the inevitable expense of debate.

The practice of restorative justice has at its core a vision to use evidence-based restorative practices within schools and the juvenile justice program in order to address the root causes of misbehavior/wrongdoing/rule and law breaking, etc. It is done so in a way that insures that all parties affected have a voice and collaborate together to decide what course of action to take in order to make things right, and to allow for each person to take responsibility and be accountable to their actions. Of equal importance is the idea that restorative justice is not about punishment or vengeance, which interestingly places it directly opposite the law.

Policing in our society has everything to do with punishment. Regardless of laws that claim we are all innocent until proven guilty, the results of wrongdoing and office referral, investigation and trial, always start and end in punishment. Our society takes this punishment as justice, and even though it is the nature of this system to attempt to prevent crime by deferment regardless of circumstance, many of us still cling to the idea that at its core the system means well. Many of us think to ourselves that aberrations of this are merely “bad apples” and we must expunge or punish them, but the reality is that this is not a unilateral system of justice at all. The police enforce a steady system of punishment on our streets, and punishment is specifically and intentionally directed at Black or Brown people.

There is a higher percentage of LGBTQ families raising children in the South than in any other part of the country, yet they are the least protected. You can be fired for being LGBTQ in every southern state, and same-sex couples still face barriers to adoption across the region. There are legal roadblocks at many turns, preventing families from taking care of one another and denying children in need the chance to find a forever loving home. Mississippi just passed a so-called religious freedom bill, which opens the door for even more discrimination against LGBTQ people in that state. This is the climate our families still face in much of the South.
21stcenturyprogressive:

We’ll call it, “The War on Drugs.”

21stcenturyprogressive:

We’ll call it, “The War on Drugs.”

Solidarity does not assume that our struggles are the same struggles, or that our pain is the same pain, or that our hope is for the same future. Solidarity involves commitment, and work, as well as the recognition that even if we do not have the same feelings, or the same lives, or the same bodies, we do live on common ground.

Sara Ahmed | The Cultural Politics of Emotion (via paradelle)

To everyone decrying “identity politics”

(via faggottariusrising)

thepeoplesrecord:

Gentrification report proposes bold solutions to stop displacement in Oakland | Oakland LocalApril 20, 2014
Last week Causa Justa::Just Cause (CJJC) released a report titled Development Without Displacement: Resisting Gentrification in the Bay Area. The 112-page document, prepared in collaboration with the Alameda County Public Health Department, goes beyond describing the public health implications of gentrification to proposing steps that cities like Oakland can take to stop displacement of historic residents.

Six key principles create a framework for the report’s policy recommendations:
Baseline protections for vulnerable residents
Production and preservation of affordable housing
Stabilization of existing communities
Non-market based approaches to housing and community development
Displacement prevention as a regional priority
Planning as a participatory process

“Because gentrification is an issue that crosses various different kinds of aspects, you actually do need a variety of policy strategies,” said Maria Zamudio, San Francisco Housing Rights Organizer with CJJC.  “There is no silver bullet to take on the housing crisis.”
The report classifies neighborhoods by their place on a spectrum of gentrification. “Gentrification in different neighborhoods is in different stages, so the need for policy interventions is different,” she said.
The report lays out proposed policies, including just cause eviction ordinances, proactive code enforcement to make sure current affordable housing stock is maintained, inclusive zoning that mandates affordable housing be part of development projects, and community trainings to encourage resident participation in planning processes. A proposed community health impact analysis of new projects would be designed to help cities like Oakland welcome much-needed development while mitigating displacement.
The report advocates against the market-driven planning process that is the norm in cities throughout the Bay Area. Instead, it suggests, cities should invest in affordable housing through Community Land Trusts and Limited Equity Housing Co-Ops and levy taxes aimed at making real estate speculation less attractive to investors.“Right of first refusal” and “reparation and return” policies would allow residents displaced by habitability issues or urban renewal the opportunity to return to their former homes. A “No Net Loss” policy would “require all affordable units lost through renovation, conversion, or demolition be replaced within the same neighborhood if possible and within the same city at a minimum.” Public data on civic investment and demographic changes by neighborhood would highlight areas of  neglect and displacement where resources are most needed.
“Policy fights need to be organizing opportunities,” said Zamudio, highlighting another recommendation:  to bring affected communities into the process of preventing their own displacement. “Our policies are never going to be visionary enough to take on the problem,” she said, without input from “the most impacted residents of neighborhoods” experiencing gentrification.
Some of the proposals in the report are already being implemented in other cities. San Francisco is listed as a model for a number of the proposals. Yet displacement is, if anything, a bigger problem in that city than in Oakland. “We’re seeing a compounding of impacts,” said Zamudio. “Planning by the city has been in line with changes that the speculative market wants.” She noted that demographic shifts, as working class residents are pushed out, compound the problem by raising the median income and, with it, the threshold for affordable housing. “The income of the city is unbalanced,” she said, which leads to increasing challenges in finding housing affordable to working class residents.
(Read Full Text)

thepeoplesrecord:

Gentrification report proposes bold solutions to stop displacement in Oakland | Oakland Local
April 20, 2014

Last week Causa Justa::Just Cause (CJJC) released a report titled Development Without Displacement: Resisting Gentrification in the Bay Area. The 112-page document, prepared in collaboration with the Alameda County Public Health Department, goes beyond describing the public health implications of gentrification to proposing steps that cities like Oakland can take to stop displacement of historic residents.

Six key principles create a framework for the report’s policy recommendations:

  1. Baseline protections for vulnerable residents
  2. Production and preservation of affordable housing
  3. Stabilization of existing communities
  4. Non-market based approaches to housing and community development
  5. Displacement prevention as a regional priority
  6. Planning as a participatory process

“Because gentrification is an issue that crosses various different kinds of aspects, you actually do need a variety of policy strategies,” said Maria Zamudio, San Francisco Housing Rights Organizer with CJJC.  “There is no silver bullet to take on the housing crisis.”

The report classifies neighborhoods by their place on a spectrum of gentrification. “Gentrification in different neighborhoods is in different stages, so the need for policy interventions is different,” she said.

The report lays out proposed policies, including just cause eviction ordinances, proactive code enforcement to make sure current affordable housing stock is maintained, inclusive zoning that mandates affordable housing be part of development projects, and community trainings to encourage resident participation in planning processes. A proposed community health impact analysis of new projects would be designed to help cities like Oakland welcome much-needed development while mitigating displacement.

The report advocates against the market-driven planning process that is the norm in cities throughout the Bay Area. Instead, it suggests, cities should invest in affordable housing through Community Land Trusts and Limited Equity Housing Co-Ops and levy taxes aimed at making real estate speculation less attractive to investors.“Right of first refusal” and “reparation and return” policies would allow residents displaced by habitability issues or urban renewal the opportunity to return to their former homes. A “No Net Loss” policy would “require all affordable units lost through renovation, conversion, or demolition be replaced within the same neighborhood if possible and within the same city at a minimum.” Public data on civic investment and demographic changes by neighborhood would highlight areas of  neglect and displacement where resources are most needed.

“Policy fights need to be organizing opportunities,” said Zamudio, highlighting another recommendation:  to bring affected communities into the process of preventing their own displacement. “Our policies are never going to be visionary enough to take on the problem,” she said, without input from “the most impacted residents of neighborhoods” experiencing gentrification.

Some of the proposals in the report are already being implemented in other cities. San Francisco is listed as a model for a number of the proposals. Yet displacement is, if anything, a bigger problem in that city than in Oakland. “We’re seeing a compounding of impacts,” said Zamudio. “Planning by the city has been in line with changes that the speculative market wants.” She noted that demographic shifts, as working class residents are pushed out, compound the problem by raising the median income and, with it, the threshold for affordable housing. “The income of the city is unbalanced,” she said, which leads to increasing challenges in finding housing affordable to working class residents.

(Read Full Text)

readafuckingbook:

This Bridge Called My Back - Writings by Radical Women of Color
I don’t care what gender studies or queer theory class you’ve taken, you need to read this book, but be warned, it is a rare find and might expensive. It contains several essays by womanists discussing their experience, racism, poverty, how racism pervaded the feminist movement in the early 1980s and most importantly the individual experiences of asian pacific, black, american indian and latina/chicana women. This words you find in this book and the truths that will make your soul sick are imperrative for understanding the history of racism, feminism, systematic oppression and white privilege. These are stories that have, even today, been swept under the rug and out of sight. 
You need to read this fucking book. 

readafuckingbook:

This Bridge Called My Back - Writings by Radical Women of Color

I don’t care what gender studies or queer theory class you’ve taken, you need to read this book, but be warned, it is a rare find and might expensive. It contains several essays by womanists discussing their experience, racism, poverty, how racism pervaded the feminist movement in the early 1980s and most importantly the individual experiences of asian pacific, black, american indian and latina/chicana women. This words you find in this book and the truths that will make your soul sick are imperrative for understanding the history of racism, feminism, systematic oppression and white privilege. These are stories that have, even today, been swept under the rug and out of sight. 

You need to read this fucking book. 

A radical social revolution is tied to certain historical conditions of economic development; these are its prerequisites. It is therefore only possible where, with capitalist production, the industrial proletariat occupies at least a significant position among the mass of the people. And so in order to have any chance whatever of victory, it must at least be able to do as much immediately for the peasants, mutatis mutandis, as the French bourgeoisie did in its revolution for the then existing French peasants. A fine idea, that the rule of labour includes the suppression of all rural labor!
…Now since all hitherto existing economic forms, developed or undeveloped, include the servitude of the worker he believes that in all of them a radical revolution equally possible. But even more! [Mr. Bakunin] wants the European social revolution, founded on the economic basis of capitalist production, to take place at the level of the Russian or Slav agricultural and pastoral people. Will, not economic conditions, is the foundation of his social revolution…
Karl Marx | On Bakunin’s Statism and Anarchy, from Karl Marx Selected Writings (via weil-weil)
When we view epidemic physical and psychological violence as community problems, we see that policing and restorative justice are completely at odds with one another.

Capitalist economics are so goddamn annoying because all this market talk, which is far from lost on me, essentially divorces human material needs from people, dehumanizing us into variables in algorithms that always — always — marginalize and disempower us from our natural rights to community, food, and shelter. All done, mind you, under the false pretense that it is a science, a lie if I ever saw one. This is how we come to endless quarrels amongst academics about “the nature of man” and what have you, about the immutable laws of scarcity, and while some is legitimate and a whole lot is posturing nonsense, erasure of the exploited serves as the inevitable expense of debate.

Capitalism and Militarism | Socialist Worker

canadian-communist:

China’s surge in military spending gains headlines, partly because of the ominous implications regarding its regional contest with Japan, but it’s the deeper structures of military spending in general that are far more compelling.

There are few surprises about the distribution of military spending: for all the current focus on China’s growing military outlays – and it is significant that they have embarked on a sequence of double-digit increases as a percentage of GDP – the United States still accounts for 40% of such expenditures. However, the distribution is not the only thing that matters; it’s the sheer scale of such investment – $1.756tn in 2012. The “peace dividend" from the end of the cold war has long since bitten the dust. Global military spending has returned to pre-1989 levels, undoubtedly a legacy of the war on terror and the returning salience of military competition in its context. In fact, by 2011 global military spending was higher than at any year since the end of the second world war.

So, what is the explanation for such huge investments? Is it simply the case that states are power-maximising entities, and that as soon as they have access to enough taxable income they start dreaming war?

In a very general sense, militarisation could be seen as an integral aspect of capitalism. One of the central ambiguities of capitalism is that it is necessarily a global system, with production and exchange extending beyond national boundaries; yet at the same time, units of capital (corporations etc) tend to be concentrated within national states where they are afforded an infrastructure, a labour force, and a great deal of primary investments. Even the process of globalisation presupposes the investment and guidance of national states. The more deeply companies are intertwined with national states, the more they rely on those states to fight their competitive battles on a global stage. Maintaining a military advantage is arguably an intrinsic part of this.

However, once this rather abstract principle is established, the question still remains unanswered. After all, there is no inherent reason why geo-economic competition should lead to defence spending consuming trillions of dollars of value each year. Part of the answer has to be located in the way that high levels of military spending became such an entrenched part of the global landscape in the aftermath of two world wars.

In the context of the second world war, and then in the subsequent cold war, one thing about military spending that became abundantly clear is that it is never just about conflict. As in the conduct of wars themselves, the institutionalisation of military spending quickly becomes entangled in a series of incentives that are entirely tangential to the ostensive motive.

First of all, states that do embark on large scale military investment quickly assume strategic command of core sectors of the economy, allowing for a degree of planning and co-ordination, a level of state capacity that might otherwise be deplored by business as “socialism”. Quite a lot of the major US technological advances made under the rubric of “free enterprise”, including particularly Apple’s innovations, owe themselves originally to state investments organised under the banner of “defence”.

Second, military investment is not just an effect of economic growth, but often a lever in enhancing it. This is a complicated story in itself. Post-war US growth was probably enhanced by arms spending, but the levels of spending required during the Vietnam war sapped too much capital away from other profitable investments. By the same token, it is not clear whether Japan’s rise to becoming a major global economic power would have been possible had its military commitments not been constitutionally limited.

Nonetheless, there is some complex evidence of arms spending increasing growth. Barry Rundquist and Thomas Carsey’s study of military procurement in the United States demonstrates that this has a distributive aspect. Such spending in the US helps already wealthy, booming locales become even wealthier, but it does not tend to make poor areas wealthier and nor does it reduce unemployment. This is quite significant, because one of the major arguments governments offer for protecting military spending is that it protects jobs – the one situation in which governments almost always feign an interest in employment. There is actually little evidence for this claim.

That brings us to a final point. There is no way to discuss the real dimensions of military competition without looking at how this is represented for particular audiences. One thinks of the way in which struggles over arms spending in the US become inflected with evocations of external threats, which help consolidate domestic power blocs. The Reaganite-era neo-conservative bloc was impossible without an elevated Russian “threat”. So, particularly in states with an imperialist role, military spending can become complexly bound up not only with state-building strategies and agendas for regional economic growth, but also with domestic hegemonic strategies in which the legitimacy of governments hinges upon their ability to project violence.

To this extent, to really understand world arms spending it is necessary to penetrate beneath the generalities about sui generis state behaviour, as power-maximisers and so on, and delve into the messy politics of militarism in each society.

'Environmental Injustice': Minorities Face Nearly 40% More Exposure to Toxic Air Pollution | Common Dreams 
A new study published this week shows that both race and class are significant indicators of how much toxic air pollution individuals face in the United States with minorities receiving nearly 40% more exposure to deadly airborne pollutants than whites.
The University of Minnesota study, according to lead researcher Julian Marshall, looked closely at the rates of pollution exposure by race, income, education and other key demographics to establish the key predictors of how specific populations are impacted across the country, state by state.
“The [main] ones are race and income, and they both matter,” Marshall said in an interview with MinnPost. “In our findings, however, race matters more than income.”
Specifically looking at levels of outdoor nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a byproduct found in vehicle exhaust and fossil fuel-fired power plants, the study—titled “National Patterns in Environmental Injustice and Inequality”—found that people of color are exposed to 38 percent more of the deadly chemical which experts say can be a key driver of heart disease and other health problems.
According to the study:

Breathing NO2 is linked to asthma symptoms and heart disease. The researchers studied NO2 levels in urban areas across the country and compared specific areas within the cities based on populations defined in the U.S. Census as “nonwhite” or “white.”
The health impacts from the difference in levels between whites and nonwhites found in the study are substantial. For example, researchers estimate that if nonwhites breathed the lower NO2 levels experienced by whites, it would prevent 7,000 deaths from heart disease alone among nonwhites each year.

Though it has been well-documented that low-income families and minorities have long been forced to live in undesirable neighborhoods near coal plants or high-traffic roadways, this study is being called “ground-breaking” for taking a national look at the issue and using advanced satellite technology to compare specific geographic areas with advanced pollution data.
As Emily Badger writes at the Washington Post:

Studies dating back to the 1970s have pointed to a consistent pattern in who lives near the kinds of hazards — toxic waste sites, landfills, congested highways — that few of us would willingly choose as neighbors. The invariable answer: poor people and communities of color.
This pattern of “environmental injustice” suggests that minorities may contend every day with disproportionate health risks from tailpipe exhaust or coal plant emissions. But these health risks are harder to quantify than, say, the number of power plants in a city. And most of the research that has tried to do this has been limited to a single metropolitan area, or to those few places that happen to have good monitoring data on pollution.

(Photo Credit: NRDC file)

'Environmental Injustice': Minorities Face Nearly 40% More Exposure to Toxic Air Pollution | Common Dreams 

A new study published this week shows that both race and class are significant indicators of how much toxic air pollution individuals face in the United States with minorities receiving nearly 40% more exposure to deadly airborne pollutants than whites.

The University of Minnesota study, according to lead researcher Julian Marshall, looked closely at the rates of pollution exposure by race, income, education and other key demographics to establish the key predictors of how specific populations are impacted across the country, state by state.

“The [main] ones are race and income, and they both matter,” Marshall said in an interview with MinnPost. “In our findings, however, race matters more than income.”

Specifically looking at levels of outdoor nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a byproduct found in vehicle exhaust and fossil fuel-fired power plants, the study—titled “National Patterns in Environmental Injustice and Inequality”—found that people of color are exposed to 38 percent more of the deadly chemical which experts say can be a key driver of heart disease and other health problems.

According to the study:

Breathing NO2 is linked to asthma symptoms and heart disease. The researchers studied NO2 levels in urban areas across the country and compared specific areas within the cities based on populations defined in the U.S. Census as “nonwhite” or “white.”

The health impacts from the difference in levels between whites and nonwhites found in the study are substantial. For example, researchers estimate that if nonwhites breathed the lower NO2 levels experienced by whites, it would prevent 7,000 deaths from heart disease alone among nonwhites each year.

Though it has been well-documented that low-income families and minorities have long been forced to live in undesirable neighborhoods near coal plants or high-traffic roadways, this study is being called “ground-breaking” for taking a national look at the issue and using advanced satellite technology to compare specific geographic areas with advanced pollution data.

As Emily Badger writes at the Washington Post:

Studies dating back to the 1970s have pointed to a consistent pattern in who lives near the kinds of hazards — toxic waste sites, landfills, congested highways — that few of us would willingly choose as neighbors. The invariable answer: poor people and communities of color.

This pattern of “environmental injustice” suggests that minorities may contend every day with disproportionate health risks from tailpipe exhaust or coal plant emissions. But these health risks are harder to quantify than, say, the number of power plants in a city. And most of the research that has tried to do this has been limited to a single metropolitan area, or to those few places that happen to have good monitoring data on pollution.

(Photo Credit: NRDC file)