Amazon-led warehouse increase developed health concerns
The surge in e-commerce during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a warehouse boom in Southern California, but environmental and community advocates argue that it has only brought a public health crisis and poor-quality jobs. They have called for a moratorium on warehouse construction to analyze the impacts and find solutions. The pollution generated by these operations is making people sick, with abnormally high rates of cancer, asthma, and other diseases in the San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
by Ana Machado
The warehouse boom in Southern California, fueled by e-commerce growth during the pandemic, has sparked investment in logistics infrastructure. However, environmental and community advocates argue that developers’ promises of economic prosperity have only brought poor-quality jobs and a public health crisis. Despite boasting of being job creators, the warehouses have destructive impacts, particularly on poor people of color, most of whom are Latino. Advocates have called for a moratorium on warehouse construction to analyze their impacts and find solutions.
Despite promises of economic prosperity by warehouse developers in Southern California, community and environmental advocates argue that the boom has only brought poor-quality jobs and a public health crisis. The logistics industry, driven by e-commerce surges during the pandemic, has led to the construction of over 4,000 warehouses in the Inland Empire region, which generate high levels of pollution from diesel trucks, trains, and airplanes. Studies show that the operations release significant amounts of diesel particulate matter, nitric oxide, and CO2, leading to abnormally high rates of cancer, asthma, and other diseases in the area. Advocates have called for a moratorium on warehouse construction and the implementation of solutions to address the destructive impacts of these facilities.
Warehouse developers promised economic development to Southern California communities, but environmental and community advocates say they have only brought a public health crisis and poor-quality jobs. Despite a potential slowdown in the logistics industry this year, the warehouse boom continues. Advocates have called for a moratorium on warehouse construction to analyze their impacts and craft solutions. The pollution generated by the operations is believed to be causing abnormally high rates of cancer, asthma, and other diseases in the Inland Empire’s San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Additionally, the region’s overdependence on warehouses makes it susceptible to demand shocks, according to experts.
Community groups in Southern California have been attempting to prevent the construction of warehouses in their local areas. However, they have realized that this approach is not sustainable. In January, dozens of environmental and community groups, including the CCAEJ and the Robert Redford Conservancy, sent a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom requesting that he declare a public health state of emergency in the Inland Empire and impose a two-year regional ban on warehouse construction. The letter stated that citizens have the right to a life free from pollution-related diseases such as asthma, heart disease, cognitive and reproductive problems.
However, some business organizations in the state disagree with this demand to suspend warehouse construction, arguing that it would have significant economic consequences without a proper cost-benefit analysis. Manfred Keil, the chief economist for the Inland Empire Economic Partnership (IEEP), argues that restricting employment in logistics would particularly hurt socio-economic groups, which the report aims to help.
In addition to the demand for a ban on warehouse construction, the letter to Governor Newsom also called for more research to be conducted on impacted communities and the creation of higher standards of construction approval. Ana Gonzalez, executive director of CCAEJ, expressed the hope that a moratorium would be declared so that they could look at the science behind the issue, review the plans of cities and counties, and find solutions that do not come at the expense of human life.
About the author / Ana Machado
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