Oil Beach: How Toxic Infrastructure Threatens Life in the Ports of Los Angeles and Beyond

Univ. of Chicago. Jan. 2023. 272p. ISBN 9780226819716. pap. $30. SCI
Dunbar-Hester (science and technology studies, Univ. of Southern California; Hacking Diversity) takes aim at the harbor facilities of San Pedro Bay, which contain the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, along with the busiest container port in the Western Hemisphere, a fueling station for naval vessels, and a coal export terminal. While providing employment and tax revenue, this logistics hub doesn’t seem environmentally sustainable. The region is studded with oil wells and hosts eight refineries; oil is constantly transshipped; and there is a history of spills. Ships, trains, and trucks operating there emit vast amounts of nitrogen oxides. Marine traffic causes ship strikes and curtails sea mammal foraging. Meanwhile, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has developed local habitat restoration projects; wildlife care centers treat sick or injured birds and animals. The author notes that environmental improvement efforts have not actually affected port industrial activity, arguing that the sheer scale causes degradation, and urging degrowth and a just transition.
VERDICT Having thoroughly researched the environmental impact of these ports, Dunbar-Hester makes the case that San Pedro Bay has become a sacrifice zone to oil distribution and expanding global trade, with some environmental mitigation considered a cost of doing business.
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