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Reflection Essay on New Orleans

Environmental injustices, such as participatory or distributive, happen all the time where the elite group makes all of the decisions without consent of people the decision is affecting. Many of the events that took place in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina is proof of this injustice. In the films “A Village in Versailles” and “If God Is Willing and da Creek Don’t Rise” there are two huge injustices that happened almost simultaneously.

                In “A Village in Versailles” there is a group of Vietnamese Americans living in East New Orleans. This group of Vietnamese has a relatively large population and has lived in this region since the Vietnam War. After the hurricane struck N.O. the people had to leave town due to all the destruction and flooding. Upon returning to N.O., the people of Versailles started cleaning up their area and rebuilding homes. Meanwhile since there was so much trash and debris caused from the hurricane there needed to be somewhere to put this waste. Without consent of anyone the government of N.O. had issued to build a dumpsite only a couple miles from Versailles, which also happened to be next to the same river that Versailles uses for fishing. The people of Versailles were very concerned with possible spilling of waste into their water supply, while the government saw this dumpsite as a location that is away from areas of high income and density. Trying to talk to the government to change their mind about the whereabouts of this waste was found to be very difficult. Many times the church and community leader tried to have discussions with the mayor only to be turned away. Only when the Vietnamese community band together to get their voice heard to the rest of the city in public meeting did any action even occur. Even though there was a temporary fix of dumping it only took weeks to go back to being dumped on. Since messing with the local government, that seemed to be corrupt, was not working, the people of Versailles decided to take their cases to State and Federal courts. The results did favor allowing Versailles to have some say in the final decision but it still took months of working just to have a voice that should be granted to everyone. The uneven distribution of the waste and the lack of decision making from the people are clear injustices targeting the people of Versailles.

                “If God Is Willing and da Creek Don’t Rise” brought up a similar example to the Versailles case where local people had the government make decisions for them. In “If God Is Willing and da Creek Don’t Rise” there was case where these public housing units that had been home to some for decades were going to be demolished on terms that the foundation seemed to be unstable. After the hurricane struck and many N.O. residents were still out of town the government had people come check homes to see if they were stable or safe to live in. These old public housing units were among the list considered unsafe. Even though the government has wanted to take down these homes to build new homes with less public funding so they can make profit off new buildings. Since the government could not evict everyone from the house to do so, they took their opportunity when everyone was gone. This created quite a rouse with the locals and the people who used to live in these homes. The people did not want to be taken from their homes. The city had decided for the people that the houses were too unstable and forced the people living there to relocate. Protests of the local people seemed to do little to the project. The people had no say in what was going to happen to their homes; instead the government decided everything by itself. This example of participatory injustice took homes away from hundreds of people.

                Either of these cases could be an example of environmental racism or an injustice to the lower social-economic class, but both are examples of this participatory injustice framework. The N.O. government wrongfully used its powers to do what they wanted in both scenarios. Local people should be able to have a voice in the community and especially around their own homes. It should not take the community as a whole to protest the government just to be noticed, if even that. These two films were full of injustice claims. In all of these claims there were ties to participatory injustice. Something must be done to help prevent such injustices from happening in our own country.

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