A few weeks ago, at the American Association of Geographers conference, which was held in San Francisco, I co-led a really wonderful trip, or "toxic tour", to Bayview Hunters Point, with Jonathan London from UC Davis, and organizers Marie Harrison and Etecia Brown, with Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice. Toxic tours are activist strategies to increase public awareness about the effects of hazardous waste sites on low-income communities, often communities of color. The notion of a "tour" subverts the associations of leisure and privilege with usual forms of tourism, emphasizing instead the immobilities (both socially and physically), forms of bodily harm, and other distinct vulnerabilities of those communities.
From the sewage treatment plant, we drove by Hunters View public housing, the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, and then to the native plant nursery at Literacy for an Environmental Justice. We were so lucky to hear an inspiring presentation by the LEJ staff on their youth program their work restoring and maintaining Candlestick Point State Park. From there, we went to Heron's Head Park, which is a restored wetland habitat on San Francisco Bay, adjacent to the former Hunters Point power plant (which is now undergoing remediation). Along the way, Marie and Etecia shared historical details of each site, and their personal experiences of living in Bayview Hunters Point and organizing around social justice.
If you are interested in the subject, I recommend Toxic Tourism: Rhetorics of Pollution, Travel, and Environmental Justice, by Phaedra Pezzullo. You can also listen to Tracy Zhu speak about leading toxic tours through Bayview Hunters Point, on bicycle. Marie Harrison, one of our tour leaders that day, has also recorded an audio segment on Bayview Hunters Point, as part of the Invisible-5 project, an internet-based environmental justice tour down California's Interstate-5 freeway.