Juan Parras, who directs the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Series, has been leading his “Toxic Tours” in Houston’s East End over the last few years. Parras has lived in that part of the city for over 40 years; plenty of time to see the environmental and human health effects of living amidst petrochemical plants, oil refineries, animal feed facilities, and waste processing complexes. His tours draw attention to the effects of what has been called “environmental racism,” (and classism) the assymetrical influence of industrial pollution on minority and low-income populations. They also emphasize the effect Houston’s paucity of environmental regulation has the urban population. Parras’s work as an activist repurposes the concept and tourism and travel. Instead of pleasurable gazing at ancient architecture, grand canyons, or “exotic” locales, he guides people through Houston’s unzoned industrial landscape, showing them how inequality can be inscribed in the geography of the city itself.
Parras has attracted some media attention recently, as these articles and interviews make clear:
Readers of this blog can anticipate an “tourist” report on this topic soon–Derek promises to participate in the next Toxic Tour, and post a detailed account of it here.