For centuries, hands have been used as symbols of strength, healing, and protection. In Our Hands, created with plastic debris found on beaches in North County San Diego, will not bring good fortune to anyone; however, the toy hand clappers filled with nurdles* do symbolize the power we hold in our hands to fight for solutions to the plastic pollution crisis and the collective strength we must use to overcome systemic environmental racism.
From extraction and manufacturing to distribution and disposal, plastic has harmful effects throughout its lifecycle, and communities of color are the most severely impacted because fracking facilities, industrial plants, and waste incinerators are often located in fence-line zones.
One example of a community that has been irreparably harmed is in Tennessee where Formosa Plastics Group plans to begin construction on a $9.4 billion facility that will be one of the largest petrochemical complexes in the United States. When complete, The Sunshine Project will be about 80 football fields in size and will double the toxic pollutants emitted in a section of St. James Parish that has been referred to as Cancer Alley since the 1980s. Over time, the area has also come to be known as Death Alley, and it has most recently been dubbed Coronavirus Alley because the majority Black residents are suffering from a COVID-19 death rate that is five times higher than the national average.
To add insult to injury, Formosa went to court in an attempt to block the public from visiting a slave burial site located on The Sunshine Project property. Formosa appealed the first ruling, but residents eventually prevailed and were allowed to hold a Juneteenth prayer ceremony on the ground where their ancestors are buried.
Nelson Mandela said “It’s in your hands to create a better world for all who live in it,” and everyone can have a hand in stopping this human and planetary catastrophe by reducing dependence on single-use items which account for 50% of all plastics produced. We can refuse plastic bags, take-out containers, take-away coffee cups, utensils, stirrers and straws, polystyrene cups and clamshells, single-use water bottles, and unnecessary plastic packaging.
Most importantly, we must hold the petrochemical industry and all plastic producers to account, and we must insist that leaders at every level pass and enforce legislation to protect people and planet.
(*Nurdles are lentil-sized preproduction plastic pellets used to make almost all plastic products. They easily escape during manufacturing and transportation and an estimated 250,000 tons of them enter the world’s oceans annually. Formosa recently settled a $50,000,000 lawsuit for illegally dumping billions of nurdles into the Gulf of Mexico. In June, activists fighting The Sunshine Project were arrested on felony terrorizing charges for leaving a box of nurdles at the home of an oil and gas industry lobbyist.)
Learn more — Stop Formosa
Read NAACP’s — Fumes Across the Fence-line
Support — The Federal Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act
Support — California Circular Economy and Pollution Reduction Act
Participate — Plastic Free July
Watch — The Environment Subcommittee Briefing: Plastic Production, Pollution, and Waste in the Time of Covid-19
Watch The Urgent Need to #StopFomosa below: