And They Happily Lived Ever After

A look at people who live next to petrochemical industry in Louisiana
Robert at his home. Reserve, Louisiana, U.S. 2020.

'Once, in days that are dead beyond recall, the country between New Orleans and Donaldsonville went by the opulent name of "The Golden Coast."'

This is how Cahterine Cole has begun her essay about the Saint James Parish in her book, Louisiana Voyages in 1889.

The Shell Sugarland terminal in Saint James. Louisiana, U.S. 2020.

Today, the 85-miles-stretch between New Orleans and Baton Rouge along the Mississippi goes by the nickname Cancer Alley. In this corridor about 150 petrochemical plants bustle around and are emitting relentlessly vast amounts of toxins into the air. As proven by the EPA, living in this area increases the risk of getting cancer by several hundred times.

Residents of Saint James gather on a slave burial ground to commemorate their ancestry on All Saints´ Day. Saint James Parish, Louisiana, 2020.

In 2018, Formosa, a giant Taiwanese plastics producer got the permits to start the production of an estimated $9.4 billion industrial complex, romantically called Sunshine Project. To realize this project Formosa purchased 2,400 acres in the Saint James Parish. Formosa bolsters their positive argumentation for the Saint James community with job guaranties a promised average salary of $84,500 and $500 million in local spending.

A burning sugar cane field. Saint James, Louisiana, U.S. 2020.
Leonel Murphy during Sunday mass in his Tchoupitoulas chapel. Reserve, Louisiana, U.S. 2020.

But the company´s announcement omits that the production of polyethylene, polypropylene, polymer and ethylene glycol will emit substantial quantities of cancerous pollutants into the environment. Instead the project´s website states that plastic production 'will make our lives safer, healthier, cleaner, and more efficient'.

Private home next to a cemetery. Reserve, Louisiana, U.S. 2020.
A resident takes her dog for a walk. Reserve, Louisiana, U.S. 2020.
Robert´s son with his daughter and friends get ready for a Sunday joyride. Reserve, Louisiana, U.S. 2020.

Robert´s son and granddaughter live with him. They were exposed to the same pollution like the other family members. But they don´t have found any health problems. Thus, they suppose that Robert is fighting windmills. The majority of Reserve´s residents think accordingly and hold that the industry provides jobs and creates well-being for the community. With pastor Leonel Murphy Robert found a fellow campaigner for his organization. He provides space at his church to hold meetings and helps to spread the word in his masses. But to convince people who don´t suffer health problems of something invisible remains complicated.

Sidings of the train system that hauls off the products from the plants. Reserve, Louisiana, U.S. 2020.
Robert talks to his wife who has to go to the hospital tomorrow to get treatment for multiple sclerosis. She moved to California to take a distance from the pollution. Reserve, Louisiana, U.S. 2020.

To receive proper treatment Robert´s daughter had to move to New Orleans. Every Saturday she gets an injection which makes her feel weak and sick the day after. His wife moved to California to take a distance from the invisible threat. Additionally to her cancer she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

A historic plantation house surrounded by a refinery. Reserve, Louisiana, U.S. 2020.
Entrance of a refinery. Reserve, Louisiana, U.S. 2020.