The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach together are the largest port complex in the nation and moving all of that freight isn't easy. That's why the Alameda Corridor freight railway was built. Anti-car advocates often promote such freight railways as positive alternatives to expanding expressway capacity that would also benefit people in cars at the expense of the environment. However, we should take a look at who bears the brunt of the pollution from these diesel railways. Surprise surprise, it's people of color.
Luckily, some researchers have already done just that. In a study called An Analysis of PM and NOx Train Emissions in the Alameda Corridor, CA, Sangkapichai and others note the following:
The Alameda corridor provides a crucial rail link for moving freight in and out of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, also known as the San Pedro Bay Ports (SPBP). While the benefits of this trade are enjoyed by the whole nation, the associated air pollution costs are born mostly by the people who live in the vicinity of the Alameda corridor and the two freeways (the I-710 and the I-110) that serve the Ports. Although they are more energy efficient than trucks, trains contribute heavily to regional air pollution; in addition, rail traffic in the South Coast Air Basin is projected to almost double in the next twenty years [. . .] The affected population is mostly Latino or African American" (p. 1).Here's another study on the same topic.
This is a good example of how conventional environmentalism and environmental justice differ in their perspectives. Conventional environmentalism views the freight railway as positive because it is more efficient than moving the same freight by truck. Environmental justice sees the freight railway as problematic because its pollution is concentrated in communities of color. Both sides have a point.
Anyway, just something to think about next time you pick an imported product off the shelf. It's not only causing pollution, it's causing racist pollution.