The Empire of Logistics: Goods Movement in Southern California, a digital feature by KCET

“Thousands of containers arrive daily at the ocean ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. They then are then trucked east to Riverside and San Bernardino Counties — Southern California’s inland ports. From there, our goods are sent around the country.

We see the effects close up in the Inland Empire, where over a billion square feet of warehouses carpet the region, worsening air quality, health, economic mobility and housing. Some extol the economic value of this traffic in products. Others decry the environmental injustices, which sacrifice surrounding communities, over 80 percent of whom are poor, Black, or Brown.

The pieces in this series highlight the human and ecological costs of how we get our goods, as well as local resistance to the market forces that structure the supply chain.”

Excerpt: Slow Violence of the Supply Chain: A History of Logistics in Mira Mona by Catherine Gudis, May 11, 2022

“From California’s citrus heyday in the 1800s to Cold War military expansion, the Inland Empire has been a center of shipping and distribution. Today’s warehouses boom, linked to ongoing environmental degradation and job insecurity, has its roots in the science of war and in long histories of land and labor exploitation.

Sixty miles east and inland of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino were once the epicenter of California’s “Orange Empire,” where “citrus gold” brought prosperity and prestige, and rows of emerald-green trees bejeweled the landscape. Acres of orange groves as far as the eye could see — vistas Midwesterners would send home on postcards — made Riverside the wealthiest city in the nation per capita in 1895.

A train runs through orange groves in California, a harbinger of the explosion of industry and infrastructure to follow

A train runs through orange groves in California, a harbinger of the explosion of industry and infrastructure to follow.

Catherine Gudis Collection

Today things have changed.

More than a billion square feet of warehouses and distribution centers now carpet the same landscape; the air is thick with toxic stew that hangs over one of the most polluted counties in America. One in eight jobs is at Amazon, the largest employer in the Inland Empire region, where the work of picking, sorting and packing echoes that of the old citrus industry.”