In Petrochemical Planet Alice Mah examines the changing nature of the petrochemical industry as it faces the existential threats of climate change and environmental activism. Drawing on research from high-level industry meetings, petrochemical plant tours, and polluted communities, Mah juxtaposes the petrochemical industry's destructive corporate worldviews with environmental justice struggles in the United States, China, and Europe. She argues that amid intensifying public pressures, a profound planetary industrial transformation is underway that is challenging the reigning age of plastics and fossil fuels. This challenge comes from what Mah calls multiscalar activism – a form of collective resistance that spans local, regional, national, and planetary sites and scales and addresses the interconnected issues of environmental justice, climate, pollution, health, extraction, land rights, workers' rights, systemic racism, and toxic colonialism. Reflecting on the obstacles and openings for critical interventions in the petrochemical industry, Mah offers important insights into the possibilities for resistance and for developing alternatives to the reliance on fossil fuels.
1. The Petrochemical Game of War 25
2. Enduring Toxic Injustice and Fenceline Mobilizations 53
3. Multiscalar Activism and Petrochemical Proliferation 71
4. The Competing Stakes of the Planetary Petrochemical Crisis 95
5. Petrochemical Degrowth, Decarbonization, and Just Transformations 119
6. Toward an Alternative Planetary Petrochemical Politics 141
Alice Mah is a Professor of Urban and Environmental Studies at the University of Glasgow and the author of Plastic Unlimited: How Corporations Are Fuelling the Ecological Crisis and What We Can Do about It.
"This exciting and inspiring book takes a bold approach to the petrochemical industry's historical and present-day activities and impacts while raising critical questions about its possible futures. Alice Mah's research reveals that many environmental and labor struggles go beyond mobilizing against a single polluting facility to show how networks and coalitions constitute a movement on a global scale. Petrochemical Planet speaks to the urgency of our epoch, in which the petrochemical industry has had an outsized influence on the health of humanity and the planet, while actors from multiple quarters are demanding and creating inspiring models of change."
– David Naguib Pellow, author of What Is Critical Environmental Justice?
"It is remarkable that while there have been a handful of broad accounts of the economic history of the petrochemical industry, critical scholarship on the industry has primarily focused on particular sites and accidents. In this context, Alice Mah's book stands out as a vital wide-ranging intervention. Petrochemical Planet illuminates both the pervasive harms of petrochemical capitalism and the multiple conflicts that its development continues to foster. What is needed is a counter-hegemonic project that engages with environmental justice. Mah shows us how and why such a project is both possible and necessary."
– Andrew Barry, author of Material Politics: Disputes along the Pipeline