Night Fire: Big Oil, Poison Air, and Margie Richards Fight to Save Her Town Ronnie Greene

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Night Fire: Big Oil, Poison Air, and Margie Richards Fight to Save Her Town  by  Ronnie Greene

Night Fire: Big Oil, Poison Air, and Margie Richards Fight to Save Her Town by Ronnie Greene
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This passionate book from a Miami Herald journalist demonstrates that humble grassroots activism can eventually unsettle a corporate Goliath. In 1958, Margie Richard was a pregnant 16-year-old, whose home had been displaced by a Shell oil refineryMoreThis passionate book from a Miami Herald journalist demonstrates that humble grassroots activism can eventually unsettle a corporate Goliath.

In 1958, Margie Richard was a pregnant 16-year-old, whose home had been displaced by a Shell oil refinery expansion and had recently resettled in Diamond, a tiny neighborhood in Norco, La. The neighborhood was poor, predominantly African-American and a stones throw from another Shell chemical refinery.

Two explosions at the refineries (one killed two residents) and the 1983 death of Richards beloved sister from sarcoidosis, a lung ailment rooted in industrial pollution, propelled Richard into 15 years of activism, demanding that Shell recompense the neighborhood for decades of steady poisoning. Along with other residents, Richard formed the Norco Relocation Committee, determined to wrest realistic relocation funds from Shell, the international behemoth whose profits would eventually exceed $1.5 million per hour.

After two court cases and almost 14 years, Shell capitulated in 2002. Greenes mix of vivid oral history and hard evidence is a rousing reminder that with stubborn determination, ordinary citizens can prevail against the most powerful of opponents.Infamously known as “Cancer Alley,” one particular stretch of Louisiana coastline became an unlikely but fierce battleground for a David-and-Goliath struggle that ultimately focused the efforts of an international coalition of environmentalists bent on exposing one petrochemical giant’s egregious disregard for human health and welfare.

Within the small town of Norco, the African American community of Diamond was particularly hard hit by the various pollutants wantonly released by the Shell Oil chemical plant. Standing a mere 25 feet from Shell’s fence line, Margie Richard’s childhood home was not only a central vantage point from which to witness the noxious flare-ups that presaged disasters to come, it also put her family and neighbors directly in harm’s way. Investigative journalist Greene chronicles the decades of blatant abuse, callous disregard, and criminal neglect Shell Oil perpetrated upon the underprivileged community, and showcases the selfless dedication of Richard and other environmental activists whose tireless efforts achieved justice for a beleaguered community, and curtailed the destructive practices of a ruthless corporation.

--Carol Haggas



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