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Environment, Development, and Citizenship:
Narrative Processes as Environmental Revolution and Political Change
in Post-colonial Trinidad & Tobago
Karen Ann Cecilia DeGannes
A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
(Sociology and Natural Resources and Environment)
in the University of Michigan
Associate Professor Fatma Müge Göçek, Co-chair Professor Dorceta E. Taylor, Co-Chair Associate Professor Rebecca Hardin Associate Professor Victoria L. Johnson Assistant Professor Sandra Levitsky I the Stream by Cristo “Atekosang” Adonis (Included here at his request) I, the stream do have a story to tell I once ran and sang happily over lovely stones and mosses Between beautiful banks covered with luscious trees, ferns and bushes That was a time, the people who lived close by treated me with reverence and with love The fishes used me as their home; the animals came to drink of my water and even the birds from above We all lived in perfect peace and harmony.
I meandered my way to meet my big sister, the river, and we entwined, to meet our mother the sea.
One day we awoke in surprise To our peaceful place came strangers, who had already planned our demise We being a simple and peaceful nature thought they were beings from above So my friends and I treated them with respect and love;
I quenched their thirst, soothed their sore bodies, whilst my friends gave them shelter and food.
All these things we did because they appeared to be harmless and good But then everything changed; we saw their true ways and habits They cut the trees and plants on my banks, their waste in me they dumped;
I ran no more, but crawled, I sang no more but whispered; I began to dry.
Their waste began to poison my friends:
man, animals, birds, fishes and plants We all began to die My sister, the river also became ill and now even our mother the sea is suffering from that evil.
My friends and supporters have reminded me repeatedly that the dissertation is not intended to be the work of a lifetime, but a path through to the next stages of my life, an assignment to be completed with a distinct purpose. In my case, it actually has been a work of a lifetime and a labor of love, while also marking a significant and life transforming moment in my life. I began this work many years ago with the unspoken belief, expectation and narrative that it would be a very solitary process – one that I would complete alone. Imagine my surprise to have learned the simple and elegant truth that is quite to the contrary; that while I ultimately must give birth to this work myself, the process is practically impossible to complete with any measure of success and self care absent the support, commitment and I daresay, love of many others.
Among this community of others stand five people, without whom this process would have been absolutely impossible for me to complete, the strong and inspiring women who comprised my dissertation committee: Co-chairs, Dorceta Taylor and Muge Gocek, and Rebecca Hardin, Victoria Johnson, and Sandra Levitsky. Both individually and as a whole, they have brought me forth to this life-changing experience as a budding scholar, and they have model for me, with professionalism and grace, the character, talent, and deep commitment to both the intellectual life and that of making a tangible difference in the world through thought, sound research methods and action. I stand on the shoulders of giants. I am inspired by the skilfulness of your craft as researchers, educators and mentors.
Dorceta, I have known the longest, having met her at a very different juncture of my life and academic career at Michigan. Even as a newly minted masters degree student from SNRE with plans of continuing to the doctoral program, Dorceta mentored me in the summer of 1993 to make sure that my internship at the USEPA would count toward my research career. That advice spurred me to turn my master’s degree into what became the agency’s white paper on brownfields, and she actively mentored me throughout that process. I thank her for her many years of enduring support and encouragement and for shaping and enabling my teaching experience through her Environmental Justice Methods and Women in Environment courses. I appreciate her thoroughness, dedication to her students and the warmth that accompanies it. She has driven me to do my best work.
I first met Muge when I took her Sociological Theory course many moons ago and in 2007, when I was on the verge of leaving the doctoral after a long hiatus, it was Muge who encouraged me to complete the program. I distinctly remember that phone call while on a business trip to Tobago, in which she quickly reengaged me, seamlessly drawing my field experiences in Trinidad out of me and making sense of it theoretically. Muge made it all seem intriguing and remained critical and seamlessly conversant with my intellectual trajectory in this work, even when I could not see it all clearly myself. I am forever indebted to her for the steady and substantive quality of her intellectual support that has seen me through from start to finish.
Equally significant was her quiet professionalism in negotiating the administrative processes associated with demonstrating progress toward the degree and obtaining departmental funding. I would not be here without her persistent confidence in me.
iii I am grateful to Rebecca Hardin – for seamlessly fitting into the committee, providing rich insights, like “let your data speak”, encouragement, like “keep your head up” and the intellectual and emotional support, even though she was the newest member of the committee. I am privileged to have had her time and commitment, despite other significant demands.
I thank Victoria for sticking with the committee during her sabbatical year, accommodating the needs of the process with her research related travel, and most of all for the gift of sitting in a coffee shop with me on S. University and telling me about the opportunities and challenges of writing a piece of empirical research based upon Bourdieu’s conceptions of field, capital and habitus. I have repeatedly read chapters of her favorite exemplar of such work and I aspire to make refine the dissertation along those lines. I also appreciated her very thoughtful comments that have deepened my sense of the potential theoretical importance and future possibilities for extending the work I have begun here.
Sandra has held my feet to the fire, asking me the very tough theoretical and empirical questions that kept my work fresh and honest. I thank her for introducing me to the risk society thesis espoused by Beck and Cable, Shriver and Mix. This approach to risk was a significant piece of the intellectual puzzle I aimed to solve in this work and was key to my formulation of how environmental justice matters in more multiethnic societies like T&T where the environmental ails or inadequate protections are not necessarily distributed based on race. I am very grateful to Sandy and the entire committee for sticking with me and seeing me through the process despite the tight deadlines and for lending an unparalleled intellectual rigor to our limited but potent discussions about this work.
I thank Elizabeth Armstrong for her willingness to give me the benefit of the doubt and for going to bat for me. I would not be here without her commitment and support to the wellbeing and progress of gradate students. Special thanks are also due to Professors Patrick West and Bunyan Bryant who saw me as an eager student and set me on my path towards first the masters degree and then the doctorate in SNRE. Bunyan introduced me to the concept and importance of non-violence in his environmental justice work and was a key catalyst for my exposure to the inner events and workings of a nascent environmental justice movement through his hosting of early movement sessions at the University of Michigan. Pat West also mentored me, instigated my great love for the works of Max Weber and saw me through my early doctoral career in SNRE. That I have the ability to be conversant and still very practical at implementing environmental projects, I largely attribute to my coursework and projects with Pat and Bunyan.
I also extend heartfelt thanks to the community of friends and family who supported me in the process, to Bannie Hui, and Steve Shea for unswerving support, love and sustenance, when I needed it most. I thank David Fisher and Linda Klein for their love, for knowing exactly what I needed and when and being there with it. I thank David for teaching me how to close the gap, for staying in the journey with me and not giving up. To my wonderful friends, Mary Wagner, Lupe Leon, Sahba and Aabi Laal, Noel Legorburu, Marc Scruggs, Hazlyn Fortune, Millie Piazza, Nelous and Robert, Theo Copley, Lynne Mosley, Jennifer Lyle, you all made the difference by showing up for me repeatedly, delivering copies, providing the mental outlets for during the dark or heavy moments of the journey, bringing me food, making time to go for a walk or movie for a mental health break, talking through the process of getting it done, reminding me of what is ultimately important and helping to keep me grounded and open to let my story be heard. I thank Nelous for being my safe zone and for knowing when to say, “good job.” I thank Rebecca Hui, Bryan Goodrich and Tyler Rinker for their very capable research assistance. I thank Bryan and Rebecca for staying the course to make the deadlines possible in the face of many revisions and iv incredible formatting challenges. I extend special gratitude to Carlene Moolchan for keeping a steady hand on Trinidad business and freeing me to focus on completing this work. I cannot thank you enough for this gift of service and friendship.
I thank all of my friends and colleagues in Trinidad who are too numerous to name here and for the sake of maintaining confidences in a work that is potentially sensitive, given present day political realities in T&T.
My academic career at the University of Michigan was in part supported by the Rackham Merit Fellowship, a Margaret Dow Towsley Fellowship administered by the Center for the Education of Women, tuition grants from the Department of Sociology, and summer training in ICPSR, funded through the Horace Rackham Graduate School. I have also been privileged to have enjoyed a year of funding from the DAAD for my tenure at the University of Saarland, Germany where I had the honor to work with Professor Rudolf Richter in the field of theoretical and institutional economics.
I wish to thank the Librarians and staffs at the University of the West Indies, St.
Augustine, West Indiana collection, and the NALIS for their invaluable support with access to records for my archival research. I also thank the reference librarians at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and the University of California at Berkeley for access and privileges.
For all of you who so generously gave of your time to tell your inspiring stories, filling out the context for the often, under- or un-stated hope and vision that you have for your nation, I say, a deep and heartfelt thank you. In sharing your stories, I was privileged to have received the sharing of yourselves.
For many of you, some of whom I may have forgotten to call out or name in this moment, there is no sufficient way to thank you for the enormity of your love, tireless support and effort.
I thank my mother and family for their support by allowing my absences, unquestioned while still sending me love.
Lastly, but by no means least, I wish to express my deepest thanks to Michelle for the partnership, friendship, commitment, confidence and love you have shown me repeatedly and unconditionally in the process. You made the tough sacrifices to be in this journey and see me through and read the dissertation perhaps just as many times as my committee. It is clear that I would not have done it without your love and I look forward to life together in post-dissertation mode.
All of my journey, all of the circuitous roads, and the people who have taught me life’s lessons and guided me, delivered me, have led me here. I have no regrets.
Environment, Development, and Citizenship: Narrative Processes as Environmental Revolution and Political Change in Post-colonial Trinidad
In this work, I explore how Trinidad and Tobago’s (T&T) citizens fit environment and development debates to the realities of their local geographical and historical context and to their lives through an exploration of their narratives. I study these narratives to understand how those who create them have weighed choices about continuing the down streaming of the oil and gas (O&G) sector, based upon a “development by invitation” model versus the need to address urgent, pressing, and proliferating environmental concerns. I also explore the role of the state in these matters and how environmental narratives become redirected or co-opted for political purposes. Over the past decade, Trinidad and Tobago’s citizens have increasingly sought greater Government transparency and voice regarding industrial development and its impacts on human health, communities and the natural environment. They have also questioned decision making about how best to use the nation’s natural resource wealth. Widespread flooding has increased (in rich and poor neighborhoods, alike) due to illegal quarrying and unmanaged development of the Northern Range, and despite over one hundred years of petroleum and petrochemical industry development, and the presence of multinational companies, T&T as of this writing, still had not adopted air and hazardous waste pollution laws. The ‘development by invitation’ model