There has been an uptick in visitors to the neighborhoods of southeast Los Angeles, an industrial area known for its smokestacks, rail yards and refineries. What makes these visitors interesting is that they’re here for a “toxic” tour led by advocacy group Communities for a Better Environment. The tour shows people the consequences of their consumption habits, and what effects industrialization has had on communities who live in these neighborhoods. It’s timely because the area has been slowly revitalizing over the past five years, with new and old businesses are commingling in the area.
Since 1994, Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) has organized a dozen of bus tours each year, bringing in hundreds of visitors who want to see this “other” side of LA. Starting from the factories and lots of Huntington Park and South Gate, the tour strings them along a landscape stripped of LA’s usual glitz and glamor, providing them instead a view of scrap yards, oil refineries and even animal carcasses. Most importantly, the area’s predominantly Latino communities live and work amidst this landscape everyday. A map shows that a higher population percentage of people of color live in areas scattered with toxic release facilities. In areas where people of color only make up 0-40% of the population, there are very few toxic release facilities.
However, Los Angeles is the not the only city that offers these excursions. Just last year, Untapped Cities did a similar environment-themed tour at Newtown Creek, organized by Atlas Obscura. The tour was described as “an intense walking tour of the toxic hellscape of Newtown Creek, showing the aftermath of industrial waste in the area on the border of Brooklyn and Queens. Tours are given of the nearby modern Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.