Van Jones is an American news commentator, author, and non-practicing attorney. In this hard-hitting talk, he shows us how our throwaway culture hits poor people and poor countries “first and worst,” with consequences we all share no matter where we live.
I am honored to be here, and I’m honored to talk about this topic, which I think is of grave importance.
We’ve been talking a lot about the horrific impacts of plastic on the planet and on other species, but plastic hurts people, too — especially poor people.
And both in the production of plastic, the use of plastic and the disposal of plastic, the people who have the bull’s-eye on their foreheads are poor people.
People got very upset when the BP oil spill happened, for very good reason. People thought, “Oh, my God. This is terrible, this oil — it’s in the water. It’s going to destroy the living systems there. People are going to be hurt. This is a terrible thing, this oil is going to hurt the people in the Gulf.”
What people don’t think about is: What if the oil had made it safely to shore? What if the oil actually got where it was trying to go?
Not only would it have been burned in engines and added to global warming, but there’s a place called “Cancer Alley,” and the reason it’s called “Cancer Alley” is because the petrochemical industry takes that oil and turns it into plastic and in the process, kills people. It shortens the lives of the people who live there in the Gulf.
So oil and petrochemicals are not just a problem when there’s a spill; they’re a problem when there’s not. And what we don’t often appreciate is the price that poor people pay for us to have these disposable products.