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Pollution: The Ethics of NIMBY

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When it comes to pollution, people respond with a cry of NIMBY and let loose the dogs of influence. While there is some debate about its impact, this shows that everyone gets what is obviously true: pollution is unsightly, unpleasant, and unhealthy. Air pollution alone is deadly, killing millions of us each year. As such, pollution is costly. It is also obviously true that our civilization generates vast quantities of pollution, and we must decide where this pollution goes. As one would expect, the cost of pollution is regularly shifted onto those with less influence. The wealthy and politically influential use this power to ensure that sources of pollution are in places where the poor and uninfluential live. To illustrate, we do not see incinerators and coal power plants constructed near the residences of Nancy Pelosi, Ted Cruz, Bill Gates, or Oprah. In the United States (and elsewhere), as one would expect, race is also a factor: pollution is concentrated along racial lines, even accounting for disparities of income. To illustrate, highways tend to run through minority neighborhoods and industrial plants tend to be located near minority residences. While some might rush to point out that white Americans are subject to horrific levels of pollution, this is hardly the devasting riposte that one might think it is. After all, pollution is distributed disproportionally to wealth and there are many poor white people in America. Also, pointing out that white people are also heavily exposed to pollution only shows how widespread the problem of pollution is. As with most harms in America, pollution hurts the poor, the children, and minorities the most. In some cases, the shifting of cost is a conscious decision: people know exactly what they are doing. In other cases, one could argue it happens with less direct intention. To illustrate, if a company proposed to build a refinery in a wealthy white neighborhood, the residents would use their influence to block this. The. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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