Leading from the Left

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Trash Talk

The general public has been very vocal about Orange County's decision to site a waste transfer station on Eubanks Road. The concerns, of course, are that the current landfill has been in operation on Eubanks Road since the 1970's. Siting the transfer station there means that the same group of neighbors will continue to bear the burden of dealing with the trash the rest of us produce.

In the 1990's I opposed siting a new landfill in that neighborhood because I believed it was unjust to expect one community to deal for another 30 years with a new landfill. The Roger's Road neighbors are largely African-American and of modest means. I believed then, and believe now, that one landfill for 30+ years was enough.

I also opposed the Board of Commissioner's decision in the early part of this decade to ship our waste out of county. Let's be honest here, shipping our waste to another community in another part of the state creates an environmental justice concern as well. It may be politically easy, but is it right? Our garbage will most likely be going to some poor, predominantly minority community in Eastern NC or Southeastern VA.

I believe we here in Orange County need to take a step back and reassess our commitment to social and environmental justice. Are we effectively factoring social justice into our criteria when decisions such as these are made? What weight do we give social justice concerns? Is social justice the MOST important criteria or is it one of several we take into consideration?

Let's take a step back and examine these questions in a proactive manner. The public input on the County's transfer station decision has been an important catalyst in getting the community's attention. It's time to have an honest discussion amongst ourselves, as one community, about what social justice means to us.