Contesting Environmental Decisions by Contesting Space: Competing Representations of Space in the Conflict Over a Proposed PCB Landfill in Kalamazoo, Michigan
In March, 2007, the US Environmental Protection Agency announced that as the result of the cleanup of a stretch of the Kalamazoo River Superfund Project they would be depositing 132,000 cubic yards of river sediment laden with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in an abandoned paper mill property in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Residents of the surrounding neighborhoods joined together with activists, students, and city officials to protest the slated dumping. One month later, the EPA reversed its decision. This conflict was waged not strictly over unequal distribution of environmental hazards, but over the essential nature of the space of the Allied site. Through the work of Lefebvre and other critical geographers, I examine the ways that this space was historically produced by capitalist industry and state-based policy, and how it was contested most recently through competing discursive representations of space. This research finds, first, that analyses of environmental conflicts must take into account the historical geography of a contested space, and second, that they must recognize the ways that environmental decisions are resisted for more reasons than race or class-based politics of health. Space is meaningful in multiple ways and contested through various strategies - this research explores how.
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