Christina Dunbar-Hester, associate professor at the University of Southern California (USA), discussed Oil Beach: How Toxic Infrastructure Threatens Life in the Ports of Los Angeles and Beyond (University of Chicago Press, 2023) in the Greenhouse environmental humanities book talk on Monday, 20 March 2023, at 16:00 in Norway and 11:00 in US East Coast. *Note that the talk starts at 11:00 Eastern because of the difference of when daylight savings time happens in US and Europe.
Can the stories of bananas, whales, sea birds, and otters teach us to reconsider the seaport as a place of ecological violence, tied to oil, capital, and trade? San Pedro Bay, which contains the contiguous Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, is a significant site for petroleum shipping and refining as well as one of the largest container shipping ports in the world—some forty percent of containerized imports to the United States pass through this so-called America’s Port. It is also ecologically rich. Built atop a land- and waterscape of vital importance to wildlife, the heavily industrialized Los Angeles Harbor contains estuarial wetlands, the LA River mouth, and a marine ecology where colder and warmer Pacific Ocean waters meet. In this compelling interdisciplinary investigation, award-winning author Christina Dunbar-Hester explores the complex relationships among commerce, empire, environment, and the nonhuman life forms of San Pedro Bay over the last fifty years—a period coinciding with the era of modern environmental regulation in the United States. The LA port complex is not simply a local site, Dunbar-Hester argues, but a node in a network that enables the continued expansion of capitalism, propelling trade as it drives the extraction of natural resources, labor violations, pollution, and other harms. Focusing specifically on cetaceans, bananas, sea birds, and otters whose lives are intertwined with the vitality of the port complex itself, Oil Beach reveals how logistics infrastructure threatens ecologies as it circulates goods and capital—and helps us to consider a future where the accumulation of life and the accumulation of capital are not in violent tension.