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hey all,

check out this podcast of me being interviewed by Todd Curl.  I’m excited to have my views recorded on audio for the first time.  in this extensive 2-hour interview, I discuss:

  • my hometown of Ambler, PA and its history with asbestos
  • my life story of becoming politically aware and active
  • peak oil and its interpretations
  • the end of capitalism theory
  • the nature of capitalism and enclosure
  • resistance in China, Arizona, and around the world
  • how radicals can use language to speak to everyday people
  • healing from abuse and empowering ourselves to live better lives

here it is (click to play audio): Alex Knight Podcast

[alex]

Is Capitalism Approaching the Darkness of Knight?

Todd Curl

The Pigeon Post, August 2, 2010

Here is the interview I did with Alex Knight on Friday, July 30, 2010 at Alex’s home in Philadelphia:

Alex Knight Podcast

At just 27 years old, Alex is already an accomplished writer and a full time activist for social justice. His site, The End of Capitalism, explores the theory of the unsustainable nature of a profit-driven global system that continues to exploit all of the earth’s resources for the sake of greed and power.

Having grown up in Ambler, Pennsylvania — the ‘Asbestos Capital of the World’ — Alex saw first hand the devastation of his home town through the greed of Keasbey and Mattison Corporation who continued to manufacture Asbestos through the 1970s despite the evidence that had existed for years that Asbestos causes Mesothelioma, a serious form of Lung Cancer.

Seeing the sickness of his community first hand eventually built the foundation for Alex’s future environmental and social activism. While at Lehigh University studying Electrical Engineering, Alex became more intellectually aware of the systemic patterns of exploitation and human/environmental devastation brought on by a long history of a Capitalist system concerned only with profit. Alex went on to get his Master’s in Political Science from Lehigh and now is a full-time activist in the Philadelphia area fighting for real and meaningful progressive change.

As Alex will tell you, there is nothing extraordinary about him. Being the quintessential “All American Boy” — he was born on the 4th of July — Alex discovered that real social change is ameliorated when we decide to join forces and fight the powers that are determined to keep us placated and in a constant state of fear so we will not question our own imprisonment of thought and continue to consume without thought or premeditation. For Alex, grassroots organizing and activism is the key to a sustainable future and when we define ourselves as left, right, Marxist, Anarchist, etc.. we just perpetuate petty semantic divides. Alex is proud to call himself “Progressive” as he is a tireless fighter for justice.

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This shocking article in the UK Independent shows the deadly effects of asbestos in England, where just as in my home town of Ambler, people continue to die from an industry that stopped producing decades ago.

Among the revelations here are that UK officials knew about the “evil effects” of asbestos in 1898, yet it took a century to outlaw. Another startling statistic is that asbestos kills 90,000 people a year worldwide, and the death rate in England will continue to increase until 2016.

More evidence of the social and ecological harm inherent in a capitalist system that values profit above all else.

[alex]

Asbestos: A shameful legacy

The authorities knew it was deadly more than 100 years ago, but it was only banned entirely in 1999. The annual death rate will peak at more than 5,000 in 2016 – now MPs have a chance to do the decent thing.

By Emily Dugan

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Even as the Sanders brothers posed for these photos, each was already sentenced to a terrible death decades later. Why? They had hugged a family friend who worked at the local factory

They called it “the Barking cough”. First it began like any other: a tickle in the chest and slight pain on breathing. Then, within a matter of months, the sufferer was in agony, gasping for air and eventually suffocating to death as a vicious cancer attacked their lungs waiting for the final lingering, inevitable end which might not come for decades.The legacy of the Cape Asbestos factory in Barking, east London, where asbestos-related cancers continue to kill scores of residents, is a deadly one. Hundreds of people have died since the factory closed in 1968.

The story of Barking’s “industrial killing machine” is a story repeated up and down the country where thousands of Britons continue to be blighted by their industrial past. Exposure to asbestos is now the biggest killer in the British workforce, killing about 4,000 people every year – more than who die in traffic accidents. The shocking figures are the grim legacy of the millions of tons of the dust shipped to Britain to make homes, schools, factories and offices fire resistant. It was used in products from household fabrics to hairdryers.

Those most at risk are ordinary workers and their families. Whether it was dockyard workers who unloaded the lethal cargoes, or those in the factories exposed to the fibres, or the carpenters, laggers, plumbers, electricians and shipyard workers who routinely used asbestos for insulation – all suffered. So did the wives who washed the work overalls and the children who hugged their parents or played in the dust-coated streets.

The exposure to asbestos in Britain is largely historical but the death toll is alarmingly etched on our future. Asbestos fibres can lie dormant on victims’ lungs for up to half a century; deaths from asbestos in Britain will continue to rise until 2016.

Nor is it confined to Britain. The World Health Organisation says asbestos currently kills at least 90,000 workers every year. One report estimated the asbestos cancer epidemic could claim anywhere between five and 10 million lives before it is banned worldwide and exposure ceases.

Asbestos was hailed as the “magic mineral” when its tough, flexible but fire-resistant qualities were realised, but for more than a century doctors and others have been warning of its dangers. Asbestos dust was being inhaled into the lungs where it could lie unnoticed before causing crippling illnesses such lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma which one medical professor has described as “perhaps the most terrible cancer known, in which the decline is the most cruel”. Read the rest of this entry »


Hi, I’m Alex Knight. I’m a teacher, writer, and activist. I manage endofcapitalism.com and I’m writing a book called The End of Capitalism.

strategy

I was born on July 4, 1983. I was raised an All-American boy in a working class family in a small town outside of Philadelphia. As a child, I excelled in sports (I was an all-star baseball player for 10 years), and in school (I was placed in the “gifted” class at the age of 7). Ambler, Pennsylvania was a wonderful place to grow up in. My neighborhood friends and I used to walk to elementary school in the morning and chase fireflies in the park at sunset. But my hometown was also burdened with a painful legacy from its industrial past, one which illustrates how capitalism’s obsession with profits far too often leads to environmental damage and human suffering.

The twin house I grew up in was originally home to Italian immigrants who worked in Ambler’s asbestos factory in the early 1900’s. Owned and operated by Keasbey and Mattison Corporation, this five-story factory made Ambler what it was – an industrial working class community and the “asbestos capital of the world[1]. Asbestos, a mineral known for its fire-resistant properties, was very popular at the time as a material used in everything from home insulation, roofing tiles, ship engines, brake pads, and shoes. Unfortunately, asbestos also has a nasty habit of giving people a form of lung cancer (mesothelioma) from breathing in its dust. Hundreds of the Italian-American workers and their family members contracted mesothelioma and suffered for years with breathing problems, or died[2]. When the factory was finally shut down in the 1970s, 3 million tons of asbestos waste had been piled into what are now known as the “White Mountains” – thinly-covered man-made hills of toxic waste.[3]

While I was growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, over 50,000 claims were brought against Keasbey and Mattison by former workers, residents and consumers who had been exposed to asbestos poisoning[4]. At the same time, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was classifying the White Mountains a Superfund site, sealing it off from the public and cleaning up some of the carcinogenic mess[5]. Nevertheless asbestos pollution remains a persistent concern for Ambler residents[6], and according to a Montgomery County Health Department analysis mesothelioma rates in town continue to be significantly higher than normal[7], despite the factory closing over 30 years ago. One resident interviewed in 2008 stated, “Six households on one block report a family member dying from asbestos-related disease. I have lost 5 members to asbestos-related disease”[8].

Although the company almost certainly knew the dangers of asbestos and its connection to lung cancer as early as the 1930s, it kept the information secret, from the public, and from its workers, despite the growing cases of illness and death. The reason is obvious. If people knew that asbestos would give them cancer, they wouldn’t want it in their homes or their household products, and would stop purchasing it. And if workers could prove that the company was responsible for their health problems, they would sue and the company could go out of business. In other words, the corporation knew it was causing ecological and social harm, but lied about it to protect its profits.

Ambler’s story is not that exceptional. Every town in America, indeed across the globe, has its own story about how it’s been affected by capitalism.

Likewise my decision to devote my life to the cause of environmental and social justice is not that exceptional. People all around the world are making the same sorts of decisions about how to live their lives in harmony with nature and with their fellow human beings, every single day.

I attained a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Lehigh University in 2005, then went on to receive a Master’s in Political Science the next year. During college I got involved in activism and led a successful campaign pressuring my university to purchase wind energy to help supply the school’s electricity. Since then, I became an organizer with Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a national youth organization working for peace and democracy. Now I’ve begun working with other men to overcome sexism and male-dominance in our lives and in society. I currently reside in Philadelphia and work at a community college, where I teach English as a Second Language (ESL) and Computer Basics courses. Besides writing, I enjoy bike rides, music, food, and hanging out with friends.

My overriding inspiration is that the places where we live – where our children grow up – and the people in our lives – loved ones and strangers – don’t need to suffer the way Ambler and its inhabitants have. We don’t need to be slaves to a system that considers profits more important than human and ecological well-being. I think these priorities are skewed, and I think most people would agree with me. And just think, if everyone who feels this way were to work together, we could change the world. In fact, millions of people are already engaged in this work and through their efforts, the world is changing, slowly but surely. Healing doesn’t happen overnight. And we need to heal not just ourselves, but our communities, as well as our planet.

I believe in our capacity to heal. Even in an economic crisis, our spirits will never be silenced. When we let go of capitalism, we can embrace a better future – one where human life and environmental sustainability are more important than the profits of large corporations.

A new world is on its way. We are building it, one day at a time.

Alex Knight
activistalex@gmail.com
August 3, 2009

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