Teaching resource on visualizations of Louisiana's Cancer Alley
This visual originates from a Harvard-led (Wu et al. 2020), investigating the relationship between exposure to PM. 2.5 and COVID-19 mortality in the US. After the onset of the pandemic in spring, St. John Parish, Louisiana saw one of the COVID-19 highest death rates in the country (Kasakove 2020); in August, the Louisiana Department of Health reported 1,1442 cases and 92 deaths.
Kimberly Terrell, Outreach Director at the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, further analyzed the data on request of the environmental justice group Concerned Citizens of St. John. Terrell particularly looked into the significance of underlying conditions. In her final report, Terrell notes low diabetes and high obesity rates. However, she emphasizes that the number of COVID-19 deaths in St. John is much higher than in parishes with similar obesity rates (Terrell 2020).
Scott Lause took a photograph of this protest sign in St James Parish. Part of a digital gallery in The Tennesean: "St. James Parish residents fight against incoming industrial plant" (2020)
From a distance, you see a white mound rising over green fields. 960 acres and 960m tonnes of radioactive phosphogypsum, moving 0.7 inches per day. Owned by the fertilizer-producing Mosaic Company, the stack is located in St James Parish. Residents through their activist organization Rise St James have been alerting Louisiana's Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) for years about Mosaic. The Guardian reports that if the stack falls, those tonnes of waste would seep into nearby communities and remain there for millennia.
Meanwhile, company spokespersons deny claims that the stack is moving. Mosaic even proposed vaporizing gypsum and releasing it into the air.
Right: Petrochemical industries in St James Parish. The visual was contributed by Wilma Subra, an environmental chemist-activist and technical advisor to Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN).
Together, they show how toxic legacies continue via the transfer of land from former plantations to present petrochemical industries.