“By slow violence I mean a violence that occurs gradually and out of sight, a violence of delayed destruction that is dispersed across time and space, an attritional violence that is typically not viewed as violence at all.” -Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and Environmentalism of the Poor
As soon I read this powerful definition in Nixon’s introduction chapter of his book connections sprouted and grew further in my head. Last semester I wrote a final thesis paper for my Introduction to Environmental Archaeology, Native Americans and Social and Environmental Injustice. This was the first connection I made and it was so relevant in my mind because the injustices I discussed were out of sight and done over long periods of time. Most of the injustices were not even seen as injustices at all. I then connected the meaning of slow violence to our studies of the Chesapeake Bay this semester. Looking ahead I could relate Nixon’s words to our rapidly approaching study of Belize and Guatemala.
“Slow Violence” is a quintessential description of what we have learned about in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed so far in this semester. We learned of many past injustices that humans did to the environment that changed things permanently or at least for a very long period of time. Many times over harvesting destroyed species but this was not a instant shift. As in the definition above, it was over time and out of sight. No one recognized the problems until it was too late. This is still happening with many factors today. Some people in society might not recycle a bottle, pick up a piece of trash, or follow the directions on harmful herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, etc. because “it’s just one time” or “just a little bit” or “that won’t matter”. In reality this is a huge problem and each single time this happens it adds up. One might see some banks eroding in the watershed from salt marsh destruction or lack of SAV’s in the water and think that again, it is nothing to be concerned about. Each little bit of this adds up, as inconspicuous as it is. This damage is delayed and widely unseen, considering these problems have been going for very long periods of time. Some may even see these occurrences and not even understand the problem due to a lack of education or normalcy.
I can only hypothesize how this will relate to our studies in Belize and Guatemala. This now takes me back to my paper on Native Americans and Social and Environmental Injustice. I believe that the under developed areas and societies in these countries will feel the wrath of the more developed communities and infrastructures because they are larger in scale and are more closely connected to the government. This can also be a factor because the more developed organizations and parts of society bring more money to the government. Nixon writes, “Too often in the global South, conservation, driven by powerful transnational nature NGOs, combines an antidevelopmental rhetoric with the development of finite resources for the touristic few, thereby depleting vital resources for long-term residents.” Because tourism is the most economic powerful commerce for these countries, it takes precedence over the locals and native people. This may not be viewed as violence but it certainly can be considered to be. It again happens slowly and on the back burner, out of sight.
In conclusion, Rob Nixon’s strong words and meaning of “Slow Violence” certainly rings home for me and I can connect to not only what we have learned this semester, but also past classes and more studies to come. This idea is represented in injustices to Native Americans, to our environment in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and to the native people in Belize and Guatemala. I look forward to learning more about how it connects in Central America and for studies even further down the road.
Nixon, Rob. 2011. Slow Violence and Environmentalism of the Poor. Harvard University Press.