Tuesday’s “Our Views” on the state’s petrochemical complex began with an honest recognition of the way wealth was once gained by the sugar industry at the expense of its enslaved workers — far more honest than the history quoted in St. James Parish’s own 20-year plan describing an era of “fabulous plantation life” and “luxurious living.”

Such a recognition would seem to lead to a parallel with the way the petrochemical industry gains wealth at the expense of the communities it pollutes. To instead twist that comparison to criticize local people for questioning local government is inexcusably bizarre.

Local people and the organization RISE St. James may be aided by outside groups in their challenge to the proposed plastics plant, but they are up against a company worth billions that just last year paid out a $50 million settlement in Texas for pollution to its waterways. St. James itself is part of Louisiana’s "Cancer Alley," with disproportionately high cancer rates often linked with environmental racism.

The democracy you praise does not ask us to accept the decisions of our “responsible elected officials” without question, but obliges them to pay attention when their constituents speak up. Both the lessons of history and the democratic ideals you cite tell us we should listen respectfully to what all of St. James residents have to say.


writing coach

New Orleans

Our Views: A new lawsuit against jobs in Louisiana's petrochemical complex