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What is Kazakhstan learning from Palmerton?

Kazakhstanians visit Palmerton

Palmerton had some special visitors, Tuesday, when 16 individuals from the country of Kazakhstan came to tour the borough and learn its industrial history.

Their main concern was how a borough of 5,000 dealt with the environmental damage that likely resulted from decades of historic zinc smelting operations.

... While ECOLOGIA [ECOlogists Linked for Organizing Grassroots Initiatives and Action, the trip sponsor] brought the group to Palmerton, Palmerton Citizens for a Clean Environment (PCCE) guided them through the borough.

... While at Stoney Ridge, the group was informed about PCCE's role in the Palmerton Superfund Site, the regulations that are in place in the borough and how monitoring of industrial and governmental activities takes place.

It's interesting that, so far as the article mentioned, the only Palmertonians that the Kazakhs met with were members of PCCE. ECOLOGIA's website talks a lot about the importance of "local people" in environmental management. Yet they managed to overlook the other grassroots organization that has formed in Palmerton due to the pollution issue -- the Pro-Palmerton Coalition, which opposes the kind of large-scale cleanup actions in town that PCCE and the EPA favor. This is interesting considering that by most accounts, PPC more closely represents the opinions of most Palmertonians, particularly those who have lived in the town longer and thus have a stronger connection to the place. My speculation is that this is representative of a larger leftist academic conceit. I imagine that the members of ECOLOGIA relate more easily to the members of PCCE than to the members of PPC, due to their shared perspectives on the environment. This leads ECOLOGIA to favor PCCE as the more authentic voice of the people of Palmerton. For some (and I don't have enough information to support this claim in this particular case), it becomes a sort of circular logic -- the correctness of their views establishes their legitimacy, and their legitimacy is used to argue for the correctness of their views.

I agree that the environmental knowledge and values of "local people" ought to be central to human-environment research and theory. However, there is a tendency among those who share this stance to privilege the more progressive local views.


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