Slow violence, or “a violence of delayed destruction that is dispersed across time and space” (Nixon) is a concern for both the Chesapeake Bay and Belize. However, due to differences in economies, government structure, and resource availability, our countries are experiencing slow violence at a different rate and in different forms.
The health of the Chesapeake Bay remains largely influenced by anthropogenic contributions, specifically farming. For years, corn, soybeans, winter wheat, and poultry have brought jobs and money to the Eastern Shore. However, despite these successes, deforestation and the continued use of fertilizers have degraded both the land and water surrounding the Chesapeake Bay.
In the Coastal Bays Report Card (2015) it was noted that phosphorous degradation continues to be a major concern for the Bay’s health. More importantly, The Maryland Coastal Bays assessment points out that poultry production on the Delmarva Peninsula has been increasing over time, due to innovations in managing the capacity of poultry houses. This is a problem because poultry litter is high in phosphorous, which in excess can cause huge algal blooms and dead zones. Additionally, rain and weathering cause rocks to release phosphate ions. This inorganic phosphate is an anion, which means it adsorbs to other surfaces easily. Because of this, legacy groundwater, additional nutrients from actions that happened on land many years ago is a concern. In fact, the Maryland Coastal Bays Program found that in the Bay, 99% of sites do not meet the seagrass phosphorous threshold. For years, chicken farmers have been held responsible for their manure each year. Fortunately, more recent legislation is now targeting the “chicken integrators” like Perdue and Tyson for “picking up and responsibly disposing of any excess manure that their contracted chicken farmers could not find a use for” (The Poultry Litter Management Act). This is good news for farmers and tax payers because they will no longer have to pay for programs that transport the manure properly. The Poultry Litter Management Act has shifted the financial burden on the corporations. This shows that Maryland officials understand the environmental consequences of additional phosphorous. More importantly, it shows that fair action is being taken, that is the owners of the chickens are responsible for disposing the manure, not the subsidized farmers who tend to them.
As far as Belize is concerned, the waste left behind “some 800,000 tourists a year” is causing significant environmental issues for Belize (anywhere.com). Cruise ships in particular create problems for the coastal nation because the ships lack a solid waste management system. Unlike the United States of America, Belize has a low population density. There is a need for improved infrastructure and roads to develop a more stable economy. Because of this Belize is less resilient to climate-related events.
Nixon points out how the rich are careless and relentlessly continue living without particular concern for either the environment or the poor. Although their actions are not deliberate or shattering, their long-term impacts are frightening. Our society embraces a culture that emphasizes materialism and consumption. New technologies are constantly replacing old ones. For this reason, electronic waste is a major problem. Lead, which is a common element of most electric products, can leach into the soil and groundwater. The United States depends on poor areas in China to store this hazardous material. Large trash dumps near communal areas are dangerous to both the environment and people.
Politicians and policy makers tend to ignore the concerns of the poor. In fact, after the 2010 Deep-water Horizon Oil Spill, Republican and oil apologist, Don Young said that the spill was not an environmental disaster because “oil has seeped into this ocean for centuries” and that sea-life would recover eventually. For an environmental perspective, this is threatening because it supports short-termism, or a neglect for the future. In reality, the effects of an oil spill that large is unmeasurable. Additionally, it is unclear when these consequences will come about.
Environmental writers are important for society because they force us to think about our actions. Most Americans never question where their trash ends up or what the “environmental-cost” of the materials they buy is. As a society, we tend to benefit from the expense of others. For example, we depend on developing countries to manufacture our clothing and store our hazardous waste. But is this fair? Our government needs to take into consideration the well-being of the poor and address the global effects of having the world’s largest market economy.
Nixon, Rob. “Slow Violence, Gender, and the Environmentalism of the Poor.” doi:https://english.wisc.edu/rdnixon/files/slow_violence.pdf.