Tag: pollution

Remediation: The Cultural Politics of Oil and Brine Spills in the Bakken

Around Tioga, a small town in northwestern North Dakota, huge tractors, seeders, and sprayers lumber along the shoulders of the highways in spring. In midsummer, sunflowers turn yellow; tractor and skid-steer mowers turn fragrant alfalfa fields into cattle forage. Since 1951, hydrocarbon production has been an equally visible and valued part of the landscape around Tioga. Horse-head pumpjacks and tank batteries are everywhere. Heavy-duty pickups and guys (most oilfield workers are male) wearing gas-detection meters clipped to fire-resistant shirts are fixtures in Tioga. Huge tanker trucks are ever-present at the larger of Tioga’s two gas stations, owned by a farmers’ cooperative. Many people living in town and on surrounding farms own mineral rights which, like farmland, have passed through families since the homestead era. Those mineral acres can bring families small checks that subsidize their wages or millions that let farmers pay cash for six-figure farm equipment, or purchase better seeds, fertilizer, or crop insurance. Oil also brought well-recognized challenges to farming, from competing land and water use regimes to the threat of spills. (read more...)

Does e-Waste Die? Peter Little on Lifecycles and Makerspaces in an “Electronics Graveyard”

Peter Little is an anthropologist and assistant professor at Rhode Island College, and author of Toxic Town: IBM, Pollution, and Industrial Risks (NYU Press 2014). I asked him a few questions about his new project on electronic waste recycling in Ghana. His answers touch on the politics of electronics waste and pollution, surprising links between first and second projects, and the challenge of doing fieldwork in a place that everyone’s talking about. Our conversation below has been edited for length and clarity. Emily Brooks: What was the genesis of your second project? How did you move from Endicott [the field site for Toxic Town] to Ghana? Peter Little: The original project was on a high tech production site, a birthplace of electronics. That led me in to thinking more about the lifecycle of electronics, from production to discard. When we think of electronic waste, China pops up, of course, but more and more, I started to notice West Africa and Ghana. I came across a circus of journalists and other social scientists focusing in on this Agbogbloshie scrap yard in Ghana in Accra, which had been branded by one journalist as “a mass electronics graveyard.” The site was the focus of a major international Greenpeace report in the 2000s, around the time when electronic waste really started to be reported on, to become a much more targeted dimension of waste distribution. When I recognized it as a problem related to my original research, I thought, why not try to do something there? (read more...)