Thursday, July 12, 2018

Loka Ashwood's "For-Profit Democracy"

Loka Ashwood is an environmental and rural sociologist at Auburn University. She works with communities to research issues that pertain to agriculture, cancer clusters, land loss, and pollution.

Ashwood applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, For-Profit Democracy: Why the Government Is Losing the Trust of Rural America, and reported the following:
In a book with only three maps, the Page 99 Test effectively finds one of them [below; click to enlarge]. And the map bears crucial data – it shows the racial demographics around the site where the only new nuclear reactors are currently under construction in the United States. Soon, they will join two existing reactors at the Vogtle plant that have long operated in this rural, Georgia community. This is not a simple case of environmental injustice, where risk and exposure hit black people the most acutely. In fact, within five miles of the pant, a majority of residents are white. The map is emblematic of the book’s message that the most-is-best orientation of the democratic state – most people or most money – at the end of the day comes back to make everyone, including at one time more affluent white people, a minority in some sense. No one, in fact, is completely immune.

The only full paragraph on page 99 specifically focuses on the damage rendered by profit’s rule:
In a situation of public for profit, the worth of all communities is beholden to revenue. In a sense, it is similar to the slash-and-burn orientation of rainforest cropping systems. The rich forests are harvested, the land planted hastily with crops for a few seasons until the soil has no nutrients left to give, and fixing the situation would either require an investment of inputs, or a change in production regimes. Both of those methods cost, and so the tiller moves elsewhere, leaving a barren land that was once rich in ecology, and moving elsewhere to feed its insatiable appetite. Such an analogy is symptomatic of the modern US economy. Profit extracts while there is money to be made, only moving on when there comes a better deal. Countless empty storefronts in countless communities attest to the thirst for short-term profits that drives a whip behind American society today.
Visit Loka Ashwood's website.

Writers Read: Loka Ashwood.

--Marshal Zeringue