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The article reviews two decades of scholars' claims that exposures to pollution and other environmental risks are unequally distributed by race and class, examines case studies of environmental justice social movements and the history and politics of environmental justice policy making in the United States, and describes the emerging issue of global climate justice. The authors engage the contentious literature on how to quantitatively measure and document environmental injustice, especially the complex problems of having data of very different types and areas (such as zip codes, census tracts, or concentric circles) around polluting facilities or exposed populations. Also considered is the value of perspectives from critical race theory and ethnic studies for making sense of these social phenomena. The article concludes with a discussion of the globalization of the environmental justice movement, discourse, and issues, as well as with some policy implications of finding and understanding environmental justice. One unique feature of this review is its breadth and diversity, given the different approaches taken by the three coauthors.
ANRV390-EG34-17 ARI 14 September 2009 9:26
Environmental Justice
Paul Mohai,1David Pellow,2
and J. Timmons Roberts3
1School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor,
Michigan 48109; email:
2Department of Sociology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455;
3Center for Environmental Studies, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912;
Annu. Rev. Environ. Resour. 2009. 34:405–30
First published online as a Review in Advance on
July 28, 2009
The Annual Review of Environment and Resources
is online at
This article’s doi:
Copyright c
2009 by Annual Reviews.
All rights reserved
Key Words
disproportionate impact, exposure, inequality, mobilization, pollution,
The article reviews two decades of scholars’ claims that exposures to
pollution and other environmental risks are unequally distributed by
race and class, examines case studies of environmental justice social
movements and the history and politics of environmental justice pol-
icy making in the United States, and describes the emerging issue of
global climate justice. The authors engage the contentious literature
on how to quantitatively measure and document environmental injus-
tice, especially the complex problems of having data of very different
types and areas (such as zip codes, census tracts, or concentric circles)
around polluting facilities or exposed populations. Also considered is
the value of perspectives from critical race theory and ethnic studies for
making sense of these social phenomena. The article concludes with a
discussion of the globalization of the environmental justice movement,
discourse, and issues, as well as with some policy implications of finding
and understanding environmental justice. One unique feature of this
review is its breadth and diversity, given the different approaches taken
by the three coauthors.
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Fur ther
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GAO: U.S. General
Accounting Office
(now, the U.S. General
Accountability Office)
UCC: United Church
of Christ
1. INTRODUCTION ................ 406
JUSTICE STUDIES .............. 408
METHODOLOGIES ............. 410
3.1. Race versus Class .............. 410
3.2. The “Chicken and the Egg”
Debate ......................... 413
INJUSTICES EXIST ............. 413
AND CASE STUDIES ............ 416
JUSTICE ......................... 418
To understand why environmental justice
matters, one need only remember that the
movement fighting environmental racism is the
result of what happens when people fear that
their lives and health are being disproportion-
ately put at risk because of the color of their
skin or the sound of their accent. Environ-
mental racism burst onto the national political
and academic radar in 1982 when civil rights
activists organized to stop the state of North
Carolina from dumping 120 million pounds
of soil contaminated with polychlorinated
biphenyls (PCBs) in the county with the high-
est proportion of African Americans. Warren
County became a symbol of the birth of a
new social movement and of an issue that
mainstream middle-class white environmental-
ists had failed to consider, i.e., that people of
color and poor communities were facing eco-
logical risks far greater than they.
Soon afterward, environmental justice stud-
ies emerged as an interdisciplinary body of liter-
ature, in which researchers were documenting
the unequal impacts of environmental pollu-
tion on different social classes and racial/ethnic
groups. Today, hundreds of studies conclude
that, in general, ethnic minorities, indigenous
persons, people of color, and low-income com-
munities confront a higher burden of environ-
mental exposure from air, water, and soil pollu-
tion from industrialization, militarization, and
consumer practices. Known variously as envi-
ronmental racism, environmental inequality, or
environmental injustice, this phenomenon has
also captured the attention of policy makers.
Thus, a substantial body of literature that
documents the existence of environmental in-
equalities in the United States emerged (1–3).
Early findings were later amplified by a series
of studies focusing on the location of haz-
ardous waste sites, beginning with a study con-
ducted by the U.S. General Accounting Office
(GAO) (4) in 1983. This study documented that
African American communities in the south-
ern United States were playing host to a dis-
proportionately high number of waste sites (4).
That regional study was followed in 1987 by
the United Church of Christ (UCC) Com-
mission for Racial Justice’s groundbreaking na-
tional study titled Toxic Wastes and Race in the
United States (5), which documented the un-
equal and discriminatory siting of toxic waste
facilities across the United States. The UCC
study concluded that race was the most impor-
tant factor in predicting where these waste sites
would be located.
Benjamin Chavis, then executive director of
the Commission for Racial Justice of the United
Church of Christ, first coined and defined the
term environmental racism in 1982 in the fol-
lowing manner: “Environmental racism is racial
discrimination in environmental policy mak-
ing, the enforcement of regulations and laws,
406 Mohai ·Pellow ·Roberts
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the deliberate targeting of communities of color
for toxic waste facilities, the official sanctioning
of the life-threatening presence of poisons and
pollutants in our communities, and the history
of excluding people of color from leadership
of the ecology movements” (6). Thus, environ-
mental racism “refers to any policy, practice, or
directive that differentially affects or disadvan-
tages (whether intended or unintended) indi-
viduals, groups, or communities based on race
or color” (7).
Turning the issue on its head to define
the remedy for environmental racism, Robert
Bullard (7) defined environmental justice as the
principle that “all people and communities are
entitled to equal protection of environmental
and public health laws and regulations.” In a
1999 interview, Bullard described how “The
environmental justice movement has basically
redefined what environmentalism is all about.
It basically says that the environment is every-
thing: where we live, work, play, go to school, as
well as the physical and natural world. And so we
can’t separate the physical environment from
the cultural environment. We have to talk about
making sure that justice is integrated through-
out all of the stuff that we do” (8).
After years of bureaucratic and legalistic
consideration, the U.S. Environmental Protec-
tion Agency (EPA) definition further elaborates
on this principle by defining environmental
justice as “The fair treatment and meaningful
involvement of all people regardless of race,
color, national origin, or income with respect
to the development, implementation, and en-
forcement of environmental laws, regulations,
and policies. Fair treatment means that no pop-
ulation, due to policy or economic disempow-
erment, is forced to bear a disproportionate
share of the negative human health or environ-
mental impacts of pollution or environmental
consequences resulting from industrial, munic-
ipal, and commercial operations or the execu-
tion of federal, state, local and tribal programs
and policies” (9). In spite of sharp changes in
U.S. presidential administrations from Clinton
to Bush and now Obama, this definition stands
as the de facto official policy and legal bar that
environmental justice groups must reach to re-
ceive government attention.
Environmental justice claims remain con-
tentious for three reasons. First, in its early
years, the mainstream environmental move-
ment ignored social justice and equality issues,
and many critics argue that it still does. Early
work by scientists and activists concerned about
environmental issues was done with little re-
gard to underlying social inequalities that drive
differential exposures to pollution and did not
incorporate voices of people of color and the
working classes in solving them. In fact, there
is still debate among environmentalists about
whether they should attempt to address these
issues or should continue campaigning on is-
sues they are more able to influence. That is,
there is not a consensus among environmental-
ists on whether broadening environmentalism
to include justice is always a good idea.
Second, documenting the existence of “dis-
proportionate impact” on people of color or
poor populations has turned out to not be a
simple issue. Because they diverted demands
of environmental justice activists, a few studies
skeptical of environmental justice claims have
gained an extremely high level of attention in
research and policy circles. Dozens of studies
have piled up as debates evolved on the best
ways to solve research problems. Because so
much is at stake for policy in how one answers
this question, a substantial portion of this re-
view considers this literature.
A third reason environmental justice studies
are controversial is that it is not immediately
obvious what should be done after an injustice
has been documented: Addressing environmen-
tal injustice with public policy could involve
complex and expensive local, national, or per-
haps even global interventions. Solutions, such
as relocation of affected communities, which is
so ardently sought by some local environmental
justice groups, are themselves socially and eco-
nomically disruptive, and these solutions rarely
satisfactory in their outcomes. Workplaces pro-
tected by better regulations and enforcement
of occupational health standards still face plant
closure in the face of globalized production. Environmental Justice 407
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Even with agreement on the principle that haz-
ards should be reduced for everyone, nearer-
term compensation and remediation plans turn
out to be very messy. In the United States,
at least, these broad discussions of a proac-
tive environmental justice policy have barely
taken place. It seems that societies that only re-
luctantly admit inequality and racial injustice
have been hesitant to develop plans to solve the
In this review, we first describe the rise of the
idea of environmental justice in the academic
literature, as it developed in fairly close rela-
tion with a social movement of the same name.
We review some of the key studies concerning
the causes of environmental injustice, focusing
on the “chicken or the egg” debate on whether
people of color populations or hazardous facil-
ities came to a location first. We review some
contentious literature on how to quantitatively
measure and document environmental injus-
tice, especially the complex problems of analyz-
ing a wide variety of data, such as postal codes,
census tracts, or geographic concentric circles.
We review case studies of environmental justice
movements, especially focusing on the insights
they provide on when these movements tend
to win their objectives. We also briefly review
the rapidly evolving debate over the justice el-
ements of climate change, both within devel-
oped nations and between them and the world’s
poor nations. Although much of the review has a
U.S. focus, the article concludes with a brief dis-
cussion of the globalization of the environmen-
tal justice movement, discourse and issues, and
considers some policy implications of exposing
and understanding environmental justice.
One unique feature of this review is its
breadth and diversity, given the different expe-
riences and intellectual approaches taken by the
three coauthors. The review attempts to point
readers to works on the quantitative complex-
ity of documenting environmental injustice, on
critical race theories that should be included in
any broader conceptual discussion of this issue,
on case studies, on the history and politics of en-
vironmental justice policy making in the United
States and on international climate justice.
Many environmental justice scholars and ac-
tivists point to the Warren County, North Car-
olina, protests as launching the beginnings of
the environmental justice movement. Several
civil rights organizations, including the South-
ern Christian Leadership Conference and the
UCC Commission for Racial Justice, provided
leadership and support to the demonstrators.
The protests gained national media atten-
tion and were among the first to raise public
awareness about the environmental concerns of
African Americans and other people of color
(6, 10, 11).
The Warren County protests were not only
important because they received national at-
tention, but they also triggered subsequent
events that would increase the visibility and
momentum of the environmental justice move-
ment. One important consequence of the
Warren County protests was that they
prompted the GAO to investigate the racial
composition of the communities near the four
major hazardous waste landfills in the South
the next year (4). The 1983 GAO study found
that, in all four cases, the communities around
the landfills were disproportionately African
American. And in three of the four cases,
the communities were predominantly African
American. Both the Warren County protests
and the results of the GAO study prompted the
UCC Commission for Racial Justice to ask the
question of whether the regionally dispropor-
tionate placement of hazardous waste facilities
and landfills in the South was part of a national
pattern. Accordingly, the UCC then sponsored
a study of the racial and socioeconomic compo-
sition of communities around hazardous waste
sites across the United States (5).
The results of the study were published
in 1987 in a report entitled Toxic Wastes and
Race in the United States (5). The impact of
this report proved to be profoundly significant.
It represented the first national-level study of
the racial and socioeconomic characteristics of
408 Mohai ·Pellow ·Roberts
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communities most proximate to hazardous
waste sites; it was one of the first studies to
employ sophisticated multivariate statistical
techniques in the analysis of waste and social
characteristics; and the results were compelling.
The study found that the average percentage
of people of color in zip codes containing at
least one commercial hazardous waste facility
was double that of zip code areas containing
none, and where two or more facilities were
located, the average percentage was triple. Fur-
thermore, the percentages of people of color
in the zip code proved to be the best predictor
of where commercial hazardous waste facilities
were located—even after controlling in a mul-
tivariate statistical analysis for mean household
incomes, mean housing values, quantity of haz-
ardous waste generated, and number of aban-
doned hazardous waste sites in the zip codes
In 1990, sociologist Bullard published his
now classic book, Dumping in Dixie (6). This was
the first major study of environmental racism
that linked hazardous facility siting with histor-
ical patterns of spatial segregation in the south-
ern United States. Bullard found that commu-
nities of color were being deliberately targeted
for the location of society’s unwanted waste
and that these practices had their origins in
both historic and contemporary forms of insti-
tutional racism. This study began with Bullard’s
research on a lawsuit against a waste com-
pany accused of discriminatory facility siting in
an African American community in Houston,
Texas, in 1979. Bullard published research on
this and other cases of environmental racism
as early as 1983 (12). That local research cul-
minated in the publication of Dumping in Dixie,
which may have also been the first study to con-
sider the social and psychological effects of en-
vironmental racism on local communities.
That same year (1990), sociologists Bryant
and Mohai organized the Conference on Race
and the Incidence of Environmental Hazards at
the University of Michigan, bringing together
researchers from around the nation studying
racial and socioeconomic disparities in the
distribution of environmental contaminants.
The scientific analyses presented clearly docu-
mented and “overwhelmingly corroborated the
evidence of the General Accounting Office and
the United Church of Christ reports” (13). The
Proceedings of the Conference were forwarded
to the EPA and influenced the agency to be-
gin its own examination of the evidence and
begin drafting policy proposals. In 1992, the
EPA published its findings and recommenda-
tions in a report, entitled Environmental Equity:
Reducing Risks for All Communities (14).
Since 1990, scholars have produced an ex-
tensive and sophisticated literature on the di-
mensions of differential environmental risks on
the basis of race and socioeconomic class posi-
tion (15, 16). Mohai & Bryant (17) performed
a meta-analysis of 16 empirical studies on race
and class disparities in the distribution of en-
vironmental hazards, all of which found envi-
ronmental disparities that were based on either
race or income or both. In six out of nine stud-
ies, race was a more important predictor than
income of where environmental hazards are lo-
cated, confirming the UCC’s 1987 findings. In
a summary of 54 separate studies, Brown (18)
similarly noted that both race and class were
significant determinates of proximity to known
and prospective environmental hazards and the
timing and extent of remediation actions. Szasz
& Meuser (19) conducted a similar review with
similar findings in 1997, as did the U.S. Insti-
tute of Medicine in 1999 (9). In a more recent
review of the literature regarding differential
exposures to environmental pollution, Evans &
Kantrowitz (20) found that significant relation-
ships exist between the ethnic and class charac-
teristics of a community and levels of exposure
to environmental risk. Most recently, Ringquist
(21, p. 223) conducted a meta-analysis of 49
quantitative studies of racial and socioeconomic
disparities in the distribution of environmen-
tal hazards and concluded that “there is ubiqui-
tous evidence of environmental inequities based
upon race.”
The second result of the 1990 Michigan
meeting was the creation within the EPA of an
Office of Environmental Equity, later renamed
the Office of Environmental Justice. EPA’s Environmental Justice 409
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Sec. 1–101. To the greatest extent practicable ... each Federal
agency shall make achieving environmental justice part of its mis-
sion by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportion-
ately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of
its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and
low-income populations....
Sec. 2–2. Each Federal agency shall conduct its programs,
policies, and activities that substantially affect human health or
the environment, in a manner that ensures that such programs,
policies, and activities do not have the effect of excluding persons
(including populations) from participation in, denying persons
(including populations) the benefits of, or subjecting persons (in-
cluding populations) to discrimination under, such, programs,
policies, and activities, because of their race, color, or national
Environmental Equity Workgroup produced a
report in 1992, entitled Environmental Equity:
Reducing Risks for All Communities (14). The re-
port gave further weight and increased public
attention to environmental justice concerns as
it represented the first official acknowledgment
by the federal government of the existence of
environmental inequalities and the importance
of addressing them. The report was widely dis-
tributed and almost immediately prompted the
U.S. Congress to begin holding hearings on en-
vironmental justice.
Several bills were also introduced in the
U.S. Congress and in various state legislatures,
and by 1994, public attention on environmental
injustice had reached a point that President Bill
Clinton issued an executive order (see sidebar,
Executive Order 12898, http://www.archives.
12898.pdf) calling on all the agencies of the
federal government, not just the EPA, to take
environmental justice concerns into account
in all rule making. In the meantime, the EPA
continued to try to develop an implementable
environmental justice policy, principally by
relying on the Title VI provisions of the 1964
Civil Rights Act. By applying Title VI, the
agency needed only to show that an action
by industry or government with regard to a
polluting facility would lead to a disparate
outcome rather than show that an action
was motivated by an intent to discriminate.
However, the effectiveness of applying Title
VI to future environmental justice cases was
later cast in doubt with a Supreme Court ruling
(Alexander v. Sandoval ) in 2001 (see below),
and the general strategy of using legal actions
to achieve justice in cases of environmental
inequality has not fared well (22).
While many policy makers were moving for-
ward on environmental justice issues, there
were significant methodological questions in
scholarly circles around two major issues. First,
what was the relative weight of environmental
justice claims based on economic class differ-
ences versus race? As mentioned at the outset
of this review, the policy implications of these
kinds of findings are extremely complex, so any
doubt that can be raised has been amplified by
institutions representing economic and polit-
ical interests wishing to avoid addressing the
problem. Second, and equally troublesome, was
the debate over “which came first.” Did pol-
luting industrial facilities move into people of
color and working-class neighborhoods? Or did
the people move where the land was cheapest—
to those polluted communities that people with
the means to do so avoided? This issue is im-
portant both for assigning responsibility for
addressing environmental injustices and for
avoiding the “resorting” of working-class and
people of color populations into areas around
toxic facilities because they are the only places
they can afford to live. We address both these
debates more extensively in the next sections.
3.1. Race versus Class
Although the vast majority of studies of envi-
ronmental inequality conclude that racism is
410 Mohai ·Pellow ·Roberts
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the major driving factor, there has been consid-
erable debate in some corners about the degree
to which this phenomenon is a function of racial
inequalities or class-based market dynamics (17,
23–26). This controversy has become known as
the “race versus class debate.” This debate has
both sociological and political dimensions. As
Mohai (27) has argued, if we want to under-
stand the causes of environmental inequality,
we need to know what role both race and class
play because disparities have been found along
both dimensions. Whether racial factors have
an added (or interactive) effect with income or
vice versa are empirical questions.
To the extent that racial disparities persist
when socioeconomic factors are controlled sug-
gests that social scientists need to better un-
derstand what aspects of race (whether related
to housing discrimination, deliberate target-
ing of minority neighborhoods for society’s un-
wanted land uses, or other factors) are causally
related to the phenomenon of environmen-
tal inequality. Similarly, a finding that socioe-
conomic disparities persist when race is con-
trolled suggests further investigation is needed
of the causal links between socioeconomic
characteristics and environmental inequality.
Such an understanding goes beyond simply an
academic understanding of environmental in-
equality; it also has implications for political
and public policy developments. For example,
because of the evidence of racial disparities in
the distribution of environmental hazards, the
EPA has employed civil rights laws (principally
Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act) to help
develop and implement environmental justice
policy. The racial dimensions of environmental
injustice have also been an important rallying
point and driver for the environmental justice
movement as seen in the growth of people of
color environmental organizations (28) and the
emergence and strengthening of environmental
justice networks, such as the Indigenous Envi-
ronmental Network, the Black Environmental
Justice Network, the Asian and Pacific Envi-
ronmental Network, and the Southwest Net-
work for Economic and Environmental Justice
(representing primarily Latino communities).
TSDF: treatment,
storage, and disposal
Despite the mounting evidence from the
UCC study and the early reviews, contrary ev-
idence began to emerge in the early 1990s.
The first serious challenge to the UCC find-
ings came from Anderton et al. (23), who re-
ported in the influential journal Demography
results contrary to those of the UCC. Specifi-
cally, they found few racial disparities in the dis-
tribution hazardous waste treatment, storage,
and disposal facilities (TSDFs), even when con-
trolling for regional variation. Socioeconomic
disparities were also found to be weak. The best
predictor of the location of hazardous waste
TSDFs tended to be the percentage of people
employed in manufacturing occupations. The
researchers argued that the principal reason for
the differences in their findings from those of
the UCC lay in the use of different units of
analysis. The UCC study used zip code areas,
whereas Anderton et al. used census tracts. The
researchers argued that because census tracts
are smaller geographic units than zip code areas,
they are less subject to ecological fallacy. That
is, relationships found at a larger geographic
scale may not exist at a smaller geographic scale.
Been (29) and Mohai (30) responded by ob-
serving that there were additional important
differences in the methodologies between the
Anderton et al. and UCC studies than simply
differences in the selection of the geographic
units of analysis. Both recognized that the com-
parison populations employed in the UCC and
Anderton et al. studies were also constructed
differently. Specifically, Anderton et al. did not
consider rural areas in their analyses, but the
UCC study did. In addition, the UCC study
included all metropolitan areas in their study,
whether or not the metropolitan area included
a hazardous waste TSDF. The Anderton et al.
study excluded metropolitan areas not already
containing a TSDF, arguing that metropolitan
areas already not containing such facilities were
not likely suited for them in the first place.
Both Been and Mohai questioned this assump-
tion. In a subsequent empirical analysis, Mohai
(27) found that Anderton et al.’s principal in-
dicator of industrial activity, percent employed
in manufacturing, was found to be statistically Environmental Justice 411
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ANRV390-EG34-17 ARI 14 September 2009 9:26
indistinguishable between metropolitan areas
containing TSFS and those that do not. And
supporting the UCC case, the best predictor
of which metropolitan areas contain hazardous
waste TSDFs and which do not was found to be
the minority percentages of the metropolitan
areas. The result is that both Been and Mohai
have concluded that Anderton et al.’s results do
not refute the UCC study’s findings.
The early debates about the evidence used
in these studies sparked much interest in con-
ducting further quantitative research on racial
and socioeconomic disparities in the distribu-
tion of environmental hazards. Much of this re-
search tended to rely on a method that Mohai &
Saha (31) subsequently referred to as the “unit-
hazard coincidence” method. In this approach,
researchers select some geographic unit, such
as census tracts or zip code areas, determine
which units contain the hazard of interest and
which do not, and then compare the demo-
graphic characteristics of those containing the
hazard with those not containing it. Virtually
all national-level environmental justice studies
have employed this approach (5, 23, 29, 32–45).
However, Mohai & Saha (31) demonstrated
that the unit-hazard coincidence method does a
relatively poor job in determining the location
of the residential populations living near haz-
ardous sites. This is because such sites are of-
ten located near the boundary of the host unit.
However, rather than considering these neigh-
boring tracts as part of the host neighborhood,
these tracts are lumped together in the com-
parison group of nonhost tracts and considered
to be similar to other nonhost tracts, some of
which may be hundreds or thousands of miles
from the hazardous facility. When neighboring
tracts are grouped with host tracts proper using
distance-based methods, the concentrations of
poor people and people of color are found to be
much greater than what the previous national
studies have shown, including the original UCC
study (31, 46, 47).
The key features these methods have in
common are that they (a) take into account the
precise point locations of hazardous sites (not
just whether a site is located generally within
or is coincident with a geographic unit) and
(b) consider as part of the host neighborhood
all other units (not just the host units of census
tracts or zip codes proper) that are within some
determined distance from the sites. Ringquist
(21) also found in his recent review that studies
employing geographic information systems ap-
proaches (i.e., distance-based approaches) tend
to find greater racial and socioeconomic dispar-
ities in the distribution of environmental haz-
ards than those employing census tracts or zip
code areas alone (i.e., the unit-hazard coinci-
dence approach). Distance-based methods have
also tended to lead to a finding of stronger
independent race effects than income effects
in predicting the locations of environmental
hazards in multivariate analyses than has the
conventional unit-hazard coincidence method
(21, 31, 47).
In addition to improvements in proximity-
based analyses, advances have also been made
in employing risk-based approaches in environ-
mental justice studies. Rather than examining
proximity to the sources of environmental
hazards, such as distances to industrial facilities
or hazardous waste sites, risk-based approaches
examine the dispersion of the pollution risk
itself to see where pollution burdens fall.
Where pollution burdens fall geographically
is typically estimated by mathematical models
that take into account the quantity and type
of toxic emissions released, timing of releases,
stack heights, exit velocities, wind speeds and
directions, and other factors. In using such
approaches, Chakraborty & Armstrong (48)
found significant racial disparities in the dis-
persion of air pollution fallout in Des Moines,
Iowa. However, applying similar approaches
to an analysis of pollution fallout in Allegheny,
Pennsylvania, Glickman (49) did not find
racial minorities to be more greatly impacted
than whites. More recently, Ash & Fetter (50)
conducted a national-level study that exam-
ined the geographic dispersion of air toxics
risks modeled from the EPA’s Toxic Release
Inventory (TRI) and found significant racial
disparities. Morello-Frosch & Jesdale (51)
recently examined cancer risk estimated from
412 Mohai ·Pellow ·Roberts
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air pollution data in the National Air Toxic
Assessment. These data take into account air
pollution risk from both industrial and mobile
sources. Morello-Frosch and Jesdale found that
metropolitan areas that were the most racially
segregated were also the metropolitan areas
with the greatest cancer risk from air pollution.
Even whites living in segregated metropolitan
areas were found to face greater cancer risk than
whites living in metropolitan areas with little
segregation. Nevertheless, African Americans
and Latinos were found to face the greatest can-
cer risk in the segregated metropolitan areas.
Although the number of risk-based envi-
ronmental justice studies has been growing,
these are likely to complement rather than
replace proximity-based studies. This is be-
cause proximity-based studies are useful in ex-
amining where people are located in relation
to physical structures that may generate envi-
ronmental justice concerns beyond health out-
comes. For example, communities are often
concerned about the noises, odors, traffic con-
gestion, risks to children, visual blight, falling
property values, and social stigmatization as-
sociated with polluting industrial facilities and
hazardous waste sites. Furthermore, proxim-
ity data in a sense represent “hard” data, in
which the physical presence of noxious facili-
ties is subject to minimal ambiguity. Risk anal-
yses are often hampered with incomplete data
and imperfect modeling assumptions. Never-
theless, there is increasing sophistication in the
methods employed in both types of approaches,
and the results obtained from them have helped
to advance our understanding of the exis-
tence, magnitude, and causes of environmental
3.2. The “Chicken and the Egg”
On the chicken and the egg question of whether
hazardous facilities or poor/minority popula-
tions came first, research on environmental in-
equality has moved toward longitudinal analysis
of the creation of environmental inequalities.
In one important study, Pastor et al. (52) show
that, over a 30-year period, the correspondence
between polluting facilities and minority com-
munities in the Los Angeles basin was based
primarily on a pattern of disparate siting of fa-
cilities in existing communities of color, rather
than on geographic shifts in these populations.
In other words, toxic facilities tend to be located
in particularly vulnerable communities rather
than the other way around, contrary to the “mi-
nority move-in hypothesis.” These communi-
ties were being selected systematically for the
location of noxious facilities.
In another recent study spanning a 50-year
period in the state of Michigan, Saha & Mohai
(53) similarly found a distinct pattern of locat-
ing hazardous waste TSDFs in neighborhoods
disproportionately composed of working-class
and people of color residents. Theirs is one of
the few studies to examine facility siting before
1970. They found little evidence to indicate that
disparities in facility siting began before 1970
but that such disparities increased significantly
during the 1970s and 1980s. They attribute this
phenomenon to rising public concerns about
environmental hazards during this period, es-
pecially about hazardous wastes after the enor-
mous publicity given the Love Canal crisis in
the late 1970s, and the greater success of white
communities at keeping noxious land uses from
being sited in their neighborhoods. As a re-
sult of this success, locally unwanted land uses
(LULUs) became increasingly diverted to
politically more vulnerable low-income and
people of color communities, corroborating
Bullard & Wright’s (54) earlier argument that
“not in my backyard” (NIMBY) increasingly
became “place in blacks’ backyards” (PIBBY).
Despite the current difficulties in pinning down
the precise causes of present-day environmen-
tal disparities, several major arguments have
emerged. Although going by slightly different Environmental Justice 413
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names or labels, these can be categorized as eco-
nomic explanations, sociopolitical explanations,
and racial discrimination explanations. These
have been outlined previously by Mohai & Saha
(46, 55) and Saha & Mohai (53). That is, af-
ter documenting the existence of disparate im-
pacts, there is the sociological question about
why such disparities exist so broadly.
Economic explanations are sometimes referred
as market dynamics explanations (56). The
principal argument here is that industry is
not intentionally discriminating against either
racial and ethnic minorities or the poor. In-
dustry is simply trying to maximize profits and
hence reduce the cost of doing business. Thus,
when siting a new facility, industry seeks to
place facilities where land is cheap and where
industrial labor pools and sources of materials
are nearby. These may be coincidentally where
poor people live, and because racial and eth-
nic minorities are disproportionately poor, the
places where industry sites a new facility may
also be coincidentally where people of color
live. This is the case, for example, along the
Mississippi River where old plantation lots rep-
resent large pieces of land with access to deep
water ports, oil pipelines, and salt brine (11).
These places are also bordered by tiny towns
made up of shacks where ex-slaves were able to
settle after being emancipated during the Civil
Furthermore, the racial and socioeconomic
composition of the nearby neighborhoods may
significantly change after the facility has been
sited, further aggravating racial and socioeco-
nomic disparities around such facilities. This
is because the facility may introduce negative
impacts on the quality of life of the local resi-
dents. Such impacts might include visual blight,
noise, noxious odors, traffic congestion, fear of
health impacts, social stigmatization, and oth-
ers. As a result, some residents will want to leave
the neighborhood. Those most able to leave are
the more affluent residents who have the finan-
cial means to move to more environmentally
desirable, and hence more expensive, neighbor-
hoods. Poorer residents without such means are
left behind. The neighborhood thus becomes
poorer, and because white residents on average
have higher incomes and wealth, the propor-
tion of people of color in the neighborhood will
also increase. At the same time, the flight from
the neighborhood will depress property values
and hence make housing in the neighborhood
more affordable. Thus, even more poor people
and people of color begin to move in, further
increasing their concentration around the facil-
ity and further aggravating the disparities in the
distribution of such facilities at large.
Sociopolitical explanations involve the argu-
ment that industry and government seek the
path of least resistance when siting new haz-
ardous waste or polluting industrial facilities
(54). Industry is aware that many communities
will actively oppose the placing of such facilities
in them. Because industry and government do
not want to generate controversy or experience
delay in moving ahead with siting plans, they
seek to avoid communities that are most capa-
ble of mounting an effective opposition. These
communities are those with abundant resources
and political clout and also tend to be afflu-
ent, white, and well connected. Poor communi-
ties and communities of color become an easier
target because they have fewer resources and
are not well represented in the decision mak-
ing of industry and government. Saha & Mohai
(53) have argued that NIMBYism grew in the
1970s and 1980s as people’s awareness and con-
cerns about toxic hazards grew. Because af-
fluent white communities were more able to
mount opposition to the placement of new
hazardous facilities, such facilities became in-
creasingly placed in poor and people of color
communities. Thus, over time, racial and so-
cioeconomic disparities in the distribution of
such facilities have widened. That industry and
government are cognizant of and concerned
about public opposition to the siting of nox-
ious facilities has been verified in several well-
publicized cases (22).
Bullard (6) found that those communities
most capable of mounting effective collective
resistance tend to be better educated, have
greater levels of income, and fewer people
of color. In other words, aside from various
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tactics, strategies, and political resources that
besieged communities can muster, the best pre-
dictor of success is pre-existing social capital.
This finding is troubling considering the re-
search on the relationship between toxic facil-
ity siting and social capital, which finds that a
lack of “pre-existing racially based social capi-
tal” places communities of color at a dispropor-
tionately higher environmental risk than white
communities (52). Communities with low lev-
els of voting behavior, home ownership, wealth,
and disposable income are more vulnerable
to high concentrations of polluting facilities
than other communities. Unfortunately, these
characteristics are often highly correlated with
Two theories not originally focused on en-
vironmental justice concerns might be catego-
rized as somewhere in between the economic
and sociopolitical explanations of unjust envi-
ronmental exposures. German social theorist
Beck (57–59) argued that late modernity has
brought an exponential increase in the pro-
duction and use of hazardous chemical sub-
stances. Despite eventually affecting everyone,
Beck points out that the politics of the distribu-
tion of environmental degradation favor more
powerful communities over others, which, of
course, is the basis of the environmental justice
thesis. The treadmill of production model of
Schnaiberg and colleagues argues that capitalist
economies continuously create ecological and
social harm owing to the inherent drive to make
a profit (60–64). Capitalist market economies
require increasing extraction of materials and
energy from natural systems, so when resources
are limited, the treadmill searches for alterna-
tive sources, which are often in indigenous and
minority communities. The treadmill of pro-
duction prioritizes market value uses of ecosys-
tems, despite the fact that other ecosystem
uses are biological and social necessities for all
classes of people. According to Schnaiberg and
colleagues, at the roots of these conflicts are
power struggles over access to social, economic,
and environmental resources, located primarily
in class differences between the wealthy and the
Racial discrimination explanations expand
beyond those discussed above. It has been
widely debated whether prejudicial attitudes or
racial animus play a role in siting decisions (65)
or in the lack of responsiveness to the envi-
ronmental concerns of racial and ethnic mi-
norities (47). Furthermore, even though overtly
racist attitudes and actions may be a thing of
the past in public policy circles, current deci-
sions that may seem racially neutral on their
face may nevertheless have discriminatory out-
comes because of past discriminatory actions.
Cole & Foster (22), for example, discuss the
present-day effects of zoning decisions made in
the early 1900s that were intended to segregate
blacks from whites and place industrial zones in
African American communities. Even though
present-day siting decisions may be based on
a rational desire to put new facilities in areas
that have been zoned industrial, these neverthe-
less will wind up disproportionally in people of
color communities because of past discrimina-
tory decisions about where to put the industrial
zones (11). This is an example of what Feagin
& Feagin (66) refer to as side-effect discrimina-
tion, i.e., discrimination in one area (zoning de-
cisions) leading to discriminatory outcomes in
another (siting decisions), even though the lat-
ter involves no discriminatory intent. And still
other scholars (65, 67, 68) argue that present
day racism and the quest for white privilege still
motivates policy decisions that result in racially
unequal outcomes.
Race can also play a role in the way en-
vironmental burdens are distributed through
housing segregation (69). The economic expla-
nations discussed above argue that present-day
disparities around hazardous sites occur partly
because affluent (and hence white) people can
more easily move away from contaminated
areas, whereas the poor (and hence many
people of color) cannot because of constrained
financial means. These explanations do not
take into account the further constraints on
people of color’s options to move because of
housing discrimination.
Racism should not be reduced entirely to
material explanations, however, because it is Environmental Justice 415
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also a cultural, juridical, and psychological
phenomenon, and scholarship from the fields
of ethnic studies and critical race theory are
useful in that regard. In his “black trash” thesis,
Mills (70) draws on philosophical and historical
texts to connect white racism to an ideological
framework that links images of people of
color (specifically people of African descent)
with barbarism, filth, dirt, and pollution. This
also occurs within societies, such as in India,
where the Dalits or “untouchables” are viewed
as a form of contamination. According to
Mills, many whites in the United States and
globally view African peoples as a form of
social contamination, hence making it that
much easier to legitimately locate industrial
waste and factory pollution in their nations and
segregated neighborhoods. The link between
non-European peoples and symbols associated
with nature, such as danger, disease, filth,
primitive, and savage, is common throughout
European history, literature, and contempo-
rary politics in the global North, whether one
is speaking of Africans, African Americans,
indigenous peoples, Asians, Latin Americans,
or the Roma of Europe. Like Mills, environ-
mental philosopher Higgins (71) identifies the
cultural sources of these meanings concerning
racial and social pollution, in that minority
environments are seen as “appropriately
polluted” spaces. Racial segregation at work
and at home facilitates the production of en-
vironmental injustice because “environmental
pollution is fittingly relegated to ‘socially
polluted spaces.’” Mills and Higgins therefore
provide a framework for a broader cultural
logic and prevalence of environmental racism.
Of course, the above three categories of ex-
planations (economic, sociopolitical, and racial
discrimination) are not necessarily mutually ex-
clusive or easy to disentangle. For example,
even if people of color communities are targeted
for the siting of new locally unwanted land uses
because they are seen as less likely to be able to
mount an effective opposition (i.e., are among
the paths of least resistance), are not the mo-
tives of industry also economic (i.e., to reduce
the costs associated with delay and possible legal
battles)? At the same time, if industry and gov-
ernment consciously use the racial or socioeco-
nomic characteristics of communities (see, e.g.,
Reference 72) in making decisions about where
to site new locally unwanted facilities, do not
such decisions begin to raise questions of intent,
even if the motives are economic? When there
is no intent to discriminate in the siting process,
but housing discrimination traps racial and eth-
nic minorities in polluted neighborhoods, are
environmental disparities then nevertheless still
an outcome of racial discrimination? Moreover,
market forces and class inequalities are never
race neutral, revealing what critical race the-
orists have termed intersectionality, which is the
fact that race, class, gender, and other social cat-
egories are always linked in the experiences of
individuals and groups (73). Despite the diffi-
culties of sorting out and pinning down the fac-
tors that may result in racial and socioeconomic
disparities in the distribution of environmen-
tal hazards, the above explanations, at the very
least, help identify the range of possible factors
that may account for disparate outcomes.
Regarding policy implications, knowing
what explains present disparities in the distribu-
tion of hazardous and polluting sites may help
policy makers (a) determine whether more at-
tention should be given to managing the siting
process; or (b) if disparities are inevitable be-
cause poor people and people of color tend to
relocate where such sites are located, whether
more attention should be focused on eliminat-
ing discrimination in the housing market and
better informing home buyers of the environ-
mental risks in neighborhoods. Regarding po-
litical implications, better understanding of the
factors that result in environmental disparities
may help identify who is most responsible for
such disparities and what role they should play
in reducing them.
In this section, we consider historical and
case studies that give a more contextual
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understanding of why environmental inequal-
ities arise in the first place. We also consider
the role of the environmental justice movement
as a political force that might challenge this
Taylor (74, 75) presents perhaps the most
historically comprehensive and conceptually
inclusive analysis of environmental injustice
in communities and workplaces in the United
States. She covers the period from 1820 to 1995
and investigates policies that produce social and
environmental inequalities among people of
color, women, and working-class populations,
as well as resistance movements during that pe-
riod in a way that challenges traditional con-
ceptual frameworks that narrowly define both
environmental concerns and the scope of so-
cial justice movements. This is a broad overview
that seeks to place environmental justice stud-
ies in its proper historical context. The study is
also of critical importance because it includes
the workplace as a site of environmental injus-
tice and of organizing against this oppression.
In another historical place-based study
of the case of the U.S. Steel Corporation’s
sprawling ironworks in Gary, Indiana, historian
Hurley (76) found that Latinos and African
Americans faced disproportionately high levels
of exposure to environmental toxins both on
the job at the steel plant and in their neighbor-
hoods, as a result of local racial discrimination.
Class and race led to stark urban political
battles. Hurley’s book set a new standard for
integrating the history of community and
workplace issues in an historical study through
an environmental justice lens. Pellow & Park
(77) found similar results in their research
on Latino and Asian immigrant workers and
residents in Silicon Valley.
In a book of four case studies, Roberts &
Toffolon-Weiss (11) argue that the primary
cause of environmental inequalities in the state
of Louisiana is an alliance among business, the
state, and other “growth machine” interests
to create a good business climate that favors
private profits over public and environmental
health. In cases of Native American, African
American, whites and other groups fighting for
clean air and safe neighborhoods, the authors
argue that the growth machine was the major
driving force working against the cause of envi-
ronmental justice. The idea of a growth ma-
chine comes from Logan & Molotch’s book
Urban Fortunes: The Political Economy of Place
(78). Contrary to earlier theories of urban soci-
ology,land parcels in cities are not simply empty
fields awaiting human action. Rather, land is
linked to specific interests—commercial, sen-
timental, and psychological—that shape cities.
Critically important in this process of shap-
ing cities were the real estate interests of those
whose properties gain value when growth takes
place. Dominant players in urban, national, and
international politics share a consensus that un-
limited economic growth is a positive force for
society. They may have varied interests, net-
works, and foci, but the one thing they all
reach consensus on is the need for unrelent-
ing growth. They are united also in the belief
in value-free development—the belief that the
free market alone should determine land use.
Logan & Molotch argue exactly the opposite:
that often growth is not good for all. And in fact,
growth is never distributed or enjoyed evenly
across populations. Logan & Molotch argue
that in the United States the growth machine
ideology is so strongly ingrained in our culture
that resistance against it is often seen as an illog-
ical and disruptive effort to interfere with the
natural forces of the market place. Roberts &
Toffolon-Weiss reveal that Louisiana’s unique
racial and industrial history intersected to pro-
duce forms of environmental injustice perhaps
at the extreme of the U.S. continuum, suggest-
ing the need for further historical and placed-
based scholarship on this topic that might
complement the existing quantitative method-
ological research.
In their study of the state of Massachusetts,
Faber & Krieg (79) found that poor and
working-class whites and people of color face
greater toxic threats than middle-class and af-
fluent whites. These threats include hazardous
waste sites, landfills and waste transfer stations,
polluting industrial facilities, power plants,
incinerators, and measures of cumulative Environmental Justice 417
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ANRV390-EG34-17 ARI 14 September 2009 9:26
environmental hazards. The authors found that
a combination of white flight and middle-class
flight to the suburbs, the rise in the number
of people of color in the central cities, and in-
creases in illegal dumping and the siting of in-
cinerators produced environmental inequalities
in that state.
In studies of Torrance and Los Angeles,
California, Pulido et al. (68) demonstrated that,
as a result of racially biased urban planning
during the last century, Chicanos faced the
highest levels of exposure to industrial pollu-
tion in those cities when compared to Anglos.
Similarly, Boone & Modarres (80) argue that,
in Commerce, California, although hazardous
industry was sited in close proximity to Latino
populations, zoning and urban planning prac-
tices had as much, if not more, to do with
industrial location decisions as demographics
and racial politics. As they state, “demograph-
ics alone are not responsible for the con-
centration of manufacturing in Commerce”
(80). They emphasize the importance of place-
specific analysis to determine the root causes of
environmental inequalities.
On that note, Houston, Texas, is famous
for its lack of zoning laws. Despite or because
of this absence of zoning, Bullard (6) demon-
strates that all of the city of Houston’s munic-
ipal landfills are located in African American
neighborhoods. In this case, he maintains
that there was de facto zoning by Houston’s
powerful white city leaders, who viewed African
American neighborhoods as appropriate sites
for waste disposal. Bullard concludes that
racism is a fundamental organizing principle of
politics and planning in America.
Communities of color and working-class
neighborhoods have hardly been quiescent in
the face of environmental injustice. But when
do environmental justice movements arise and
under what conditions do they succeed or fail?
Studies of environmental protest movements
have tended to focus on the cases that garner
greatest media exposure and those in which par-
ticipants are successful. Therefore, it is difficult
to say with certainty which factors lead both
to the mobilization of local people against an
unwanted land use and to that group’s success in
fighting it. However, there are some important
insights we can draw from some of the substan-
tial number of case studies that have now been
conducted on environmental justice struggles.
Obviously, these cases answer different ques-
tions than the quantitative approaches, and/or
complement those findings.
For those working-class communities fight-
ing waste incinerators, Walsh et al. (81) found
that it was far more difficult for communi-
ties to close existing facilities than it was to
stop new ones. Roberts & Toffolon-Weiss (11)
found this pattern applied in Louisiana as well.
Gaining the support of outside groups, such
as Greenpeace or the Louisiana Environmental
Action Network, which had experience fight-
ing these sorts of battles, was important in
drawing out these struggles and gaining press
coverage. However, this was not sufficient to
win, as the authors found with the Agriculture
Street Landfill and Grand Bois oilfield waste
dumping cases. Another key factor that cor-
responded to environmental justice movement
success was whether communities had secured
representation by public interest law clinics and
firms, rather than private injury tort lawyers.
Earthjustice (previously named the Sierra Club
Legal Defense Fund) was a key part of the coali-
tion that successfully blocked the Louisiana En-
ergy Services uranium enrichment facility in
Homer, Louisiana. The Tulane University En-
vironmental Law Clinic was also critical for the
successful effort to stop the Japanese Shin-Etsu
Chemical Company from building a major fa-
cility in the majority African American town of
Convent, Louisiana (82).
Shortly after the movement for environmen-
tal justice in the United States made headlines
in the early 1980s, activists and policy mak-
ers began to take notice of similar patterns
of environmental inequality around the globe.
Scholars of environmental justice studies and
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international relations have begun to tackle
the question of global environmental inequal-
ity/racism. Two levels of inequality are being in-
creasingly cited: transnational and global (83).
Extraction-based corporations are expanding
operations to the remotest corners of the world,
but the people affected there are sometimes
able to utilize electronic communications to
gain wider attention to their plight. Transna-
tional solidarity work provides new approaches
to formalize the gains of environmental jus-
tice movements and avoid the flight of firms
from environmental and worker health regu-
lations at home (84). Meanwhile, some hazards
such as climate change are truly global, worsen-
ing existing inequalities in terms of who caused
and suffers from the problem, and who has the
resources to cope with its mounting impacts
(83, 85).
Much of the existing research on the inter-
nationalization of risks comes from legal schol-
ars wrestling with problems of international and
domestic law on the waste trade—specifically
the legislation and treaties enacted to control
these activities (86–89). The legal literature
centers mainly on one major pressing question:
To what extent can domestic regulation and
international agreements control or minimize
the waste trade? A growing body of social sci-
ence research has begun to pay attention to the
social and economic driving forces behind the
waste trade as well (90–93). If one makes only
a cursory examination of the nations importing
waste (legally or illegally) into their borders, it
immediately becomes clear that they are states
on the geopolitical and economic periphery, na-
tions that have endured colonization in the last
several centuries, and they are most often na-
tions populated by a majority of people of color.
Other studies observe that communities in the
Global South—including and especially indige-
nous communities—are targeted for polluting
industrial facilities and extractive industries and
are fighting back (94).
The case of the United States-Mexico Bor-
der reveals a host of concerns associated with
the globalization of environmental injustice.
In 1994, the North American Free Trade
Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect, deep-
ening the linkages among the economies of the
United States, Mexico, and Canada. Trade of-
ficials and politicians promised a cautious pub-
lic in all three nations that jobs would be cre-
ated and economic prosperity would prevail
and that environmental problems would be ad-
dressed through sustainable development (95).
Instead, since NAFTA went into effect, hun-
dreds of thousands of jobs left the United States
for points South, and eventually, some 240,000
jobs left Mexico for other nations with even
lower labor costs (96).
On the environmental front, NAFTA’s
Commission for Environmental Cooperation
(CEC) has the power to document environmen-
tal injustices but has no enforcement authority
to address these problems. Since 1994, truck
traffic from Tijuana, Mexico, to San Diego,
California, has increased 60%, pumping car-
cinogenic diesel fumes into the air on both sides
of the border. Although the U.S. Toxic Re-
lease Inventory is certainly an imperfect system,
Mexico’s version of the registry is far worse; as
of 2004, only 5% of companies required to re-
port their industrial toxic discharges were do-
ing so. Moreover, with the cancellation of the
U.S. Haztraks program in 1993, today there is
no functioning system that monitors the trans-
portation of toxic substances across the bor-
der (97). In Mexico’s Colonia Chilpancingo
community, a United States-owned abandoned
battery recycling factory left 23,000 tons of
toxics on site. NAFTA’s CEC deemed this
property a “grave risk to human health” but
had no authority to enforce a cleanup action.
Only when grassroots activists and social move-
ment groups came together to raise public
awareness and demand action did the Mexican
government begin to clean up the area. This
was the result of cross-border, binational
community-based organizing by social move-
ments in the United States and Mexico. So
although NAFTA is a glaring example of the
globalization of environmental injustice, the
grassroots response on the border region re-
flects the globalization of environmental justice
movements. Environmental Justice 419
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The electronics or information technology
industry has been widely hailed as a founda-
tion of the new high-tech economy and a sector
where people can create and enjoy untold eco-
nomic prosperity. Industry executives and many
elected officials have also declared electronics
an ecologically pristine and sustainable sector.
Unfortunately, the evidence does not sup-
port these claims. Low wages and significant
occupational health hazards characterize many
production-level jobs in the industry, as unions
are virtually absent, and many workers con-
front up to hundreds of chemicals on any work-
station. The electronics industry is heavily re-
liant upon industrial chemicals and produces
extraordinary volumes of waste and wastewa-
ter. Inside and outside the workplace, we find
evidence of environmental inequality, as many
employees in the most hazardous jobs are immi-
grants, female, and people of color; in addition,
the toxics discharges outside electronics plants
are strongly correlated spatially with class and
race (77).
These patterns hold true for the disposal of
electronic consumer products as well. When
the tons of obsolete electronics consumer goods
are disposed of each year in wealthy nations, this
“e-waste” is often shipped to urban areas and ru-
ral villages across Asia, Africa, and Latin Amer-
ica, where residents and workers disassemble
them for sale in new manufacturing processes
or where they are simply dumped as waste. Be-
cause each computer contains several pounds
of highly toxic materials, this practice creates
a massive transfer of hazardous waste products
from North to South, and it is responsible for
impacting public health and the integrity of
watersheds in numerous nations in Asia, Africa,
and Latin America. There is a sophisticated
transnational movement effort that has come
together to document these problems, and
activists have had success at changing corporate
environmental policies and passing local, na-
tional, and international legislation to address
the worst dimensions of the e-waste crisis (98).
Recently, these networks have succeeded in
pushing several states in the United States, the
European Union, and companies, such as Dell,
Apple, HP, and Compaq, to enact policies to
take back electronics at the products’ end of life
to recycle them and prevent their export and,
in some cases, to reduce the use of toxic inputs
in production processes. To better coordinate
transnational movement activities concerning
the electronics industry, activists from around
the world convened to launch the International
Campaign for Responsible Technology in 2002.
In the early 2000s, the term environmen-
tal justice began to be applied to issues outside
of the United States. In some cases, the term
was explicitly and consciously adopted with the
help of environmental justice leaders, such as at
a major conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in
2001 when several environmental sociologists
were among the Americans brought in specif-
ically to share insights with Latin American
activists and academics from U.S. experiences
(99). Organizers of the conference, with fund-
ing from the Ford Foundation, saw the term en-
vironmental justice as a way to weave together
the interests of two major factions in Brazilian
movements: bioenvironmentalism/nature con-
servationists, on the one hand, and those work-
ing on social justice, equity, and citizenship, on
the other. The meeting and additional orga-
nizing activities and academic work have led
to the use of the term environmental injustice
to describe the location of major hydroelectric
projects, urban toxins and waste, and imported
hazardous industries in poor, ethnic minority
rural regions, and indigenous communities in
Latin America. The term has also been applied
to the issue of climate change in the region. It
is safe to say that environmental justice has be-
come a global concern and a global movement
Climate change reflects and increases social
inequality in a series of ways, including who
suffers most its consequences, who caused the
problem, who is expected to act, and who has
the resources to do so. Several studies have
documented this inequality at the international
level (83, 101–103), but a growing number
of groups and scholars are showing injustice
within nations between who is vulnerable to
climate disasters by race, ethnicity, class and
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gender (e.g., Reference 104). Adaptive/
resilience resources are clearly unequally dis-
tributed by old social divisions, as was shown
so clearly in the United States by the aftermath
of Hurricane Katrina.
A whole new sociology of Katrina has
emerged, reflected in a collection of essays pub-
lished by the Social Sciences Research Coun-
cil and recent research authored and edited by
Bullard and his colleagues, among others (105–
107). This work included research focusing on
injustice in who lived in neighborhoods prone
to flooding, who got evacuated during the flood,
experiences during evacuation, whose neigh-
borhoods have been rebuilt or given over to
the swamp, who is represented in decision mak-
ing in the process of rebuilding New Orleans
and other locations around the nation, and so
on. Major questions for this review are whether
Katrina represents the tip of a very big iceberg
of climate disasters, which divide humans by
race and class, and what can be learned from
this (truly dreadful) experience. The storm can
be seen as raising national and international ap-
preciation for the existence of savage inequali-
ties that leave communities very unequally ex-
posed to environmental risks. What remains
unanswered is whether addressing the issues of
climate change and the need for environmental
reform will come to include the need to address
these deep social inequalities.
A climate justice movement is emerging that
seeks to assure that these kinds of lessons are in-
deed learned and incorporated into social policy
at the national and international levels. Several
strands of the movement exist, and new fla-
vors seem to be emerging. One group emerged
from the Durban conference on racism in 2001
and led to the creation and strengthening of
several international environmental justice and
human rights networks. Another group that
emerged is the Environmental Justice and Cli-
mate Change network, which was launched
in the run-up to the Poznan Conference of
the Parties of the UN Framework Conven-
tion on Climate Change of that year. This net-
work split explicitly from the major Climate
Action Network, opposing carbon trading in
favor of a carbon charge proposal. In 2009, the
West Harlem-Environmental Action, Inc. con-
vened a major conference on climate justice,
putting forward a platform for action in the
United States.
One difficulty and source of confusion is that
there are differences in the uses of the term cli-
mate justice between European users and those
more common among U.S.-based environmen-
tal justice activists. One root of the split is a dif-
ferent approach on whether one is talking about
international dimensions of inequality and the
flow of resources between states that a climate
treaty might require, or simply raising the issues
of environmental justice communities around
the world that are suffering from climate im-
pacts. A related problem is the continuing use
of the term by law scholars, implying that any
legal issues raised by climate change are issues
of climate justice. This same issue plagues in-
terdisciplinary and international work on en-
vironmental justice, which many law scholars
and practitioners claim describes their work as
a whole.
The U.S. environmental justice movement was
largely stalled for the eight years of President
George W. Bush’s administration. A Supreme
Court ruling (Alexander v. Sandoval ) in 2001 re-
versed earlier court interpretations of Title VI,
making EPA’s ability to rely on Title VI for en-
vironmental justice policy less certain. Indeed,
environmental justice policy at the federal level
has not made much progress in the past 10 years
(47). Greater optimism is seen for President
Barack H. Obama’s administration, especially in
light of greater Democratic majorities in both
houses of Congress and the appointment of
the first African American EPA director, Lisa
In spite of the difficult climate during the
Bush administration, attention to environmen-
tal justice was raised in 2007 by hearings held
in the U.S. Senate, focusing on EPA’s handling Environmental Justice 421
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Key Policy Proposals from Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty 1987–
2007: Grassroots Struggles to Dismantle Environmental Racism in the
United States, which the authors submitted to the Senate Subcom-
mittee on Superfund and Environmental Health during hearings
held July 2007.
1. Hold Congressional Hearings on EPA Response to Contamina-
tion in EJ [environmental justice] Communities;
2. Pass a National Environmental Justice Act Codifying the Environ-
mental Justice Executive Order 12898;
3. Provide a Legislative “Fix” for Title VI of the Civil Rights Act
of 1964 that was gutted by the 2001 Alexander v. Sandoval U.S.
Supreme Court decision that requires intent, rather than disparate
impact, to prove discrimination;
4. Require Assessments of Cumulative Pollution Burdens in Facility
5. Require Safety Buffers in Facility Permitting;
6. Protect and Enhance Community and Worker Right-to-Know;
7. Enact Legislation Promoting Clean Production and Waste Re-
8. Adopt Green Procurement Policies and Clean Production Tax
9. Reinstate the Superfund tax;
10. Establish Tax Increment Finance (TIP) Funds to Promote Envi-
ronmental Justice-Driven Community Development.
of environmental justice matters, and by the re-
lease earlier that year of an update of the UCC
report, entitled Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty
1987–2007: Grassroots Struggles to Dismantle En-
vironmental Racism in the United States (47). By
using updated information on hazardous waste
facility locations, demographic data from the
2000 Census, and newer and better methods
of determining where facilities and people are
located, this report found that the poor and
people of color are more heavily concentrated
around such facilities than what previous studies
found, including the 1987 UCC Report. In fact,
the 2007 report found that people of color make
up the majority (56%) of those living within
3.0 km of where hazardous waste facilities are
located, in spite of being only 30% of the na-
tional population (47). And where two or more
facilities are clustered, people of color make
up 69%. In addition to the updated analysis
of the distribution of hazardous waste facilities,
Toxic Waste and Race at Twenty also contained a
number of important recommendations for ad-
dressing environmental injustices in the United
States. Ten key environmental justice policies
were identified for implementation by Bullard
and colleagues (47) (see the Environmental Jus-
tice Policy Proposals sidebar) and forwarded
to Senator Hillary Clinton, who chaired the
2007 Senate hearings. This letter was signed
by over 100 environmental justice leaders, or-
ganizations, and academics.
Because of the stalemate at the federal level
in the United States, considerable efforts have
been made at the local levels to develop envi-
ronmental justice policies. Currently 41 states
have some policy on environmental justice, and
California has enacted an environmental jus-
tice law. In spite of these efforts, many believe
that federal and state actions have not achieved
measurable results (47). Nevertheless, the envi-
ronmental justice movement has raised public
attention and spurred some government ef-
forts on this issue. This review shows how aca-
demic interest has increased rapidly in the past
two decades with sponsored research and peer-
reviewed publications appearing in a wide range
of disciplines, including sociology, law, geogra-
phy, urban planning, public health, economics,
political science, and others. Many colleges
and universities offer courses and even whole
programs in environmental justice studies. Al-
though many observers believe that the prob-
lems associated with disparate environmental
burdens will not be easily solved, and Foreman
(108) argued that environmental justice would
quickly become a distant memory, the growth
in the numbers of grassroots organizations, aca-
demic institutions, and government agencies
working on environmental justice have created
enough critical mass and momentum that it
does not seem likely attention to this issue will
fade any time soon.
Looking ahead on new trends in research
on environmental justice, we expect continuing
studies in most or all the issues discussed above,
and two exciting new lines need special atten-
tion. Although health concerns related to indus-
trial pollution and hazardous wastes often are
422 Mohai ·Pellow ·Roberts
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the trigger that mobilizes communities in en-
vironmental justice controversies, surprisingly
little research has been conducted to determine
the extent that racial and socioeconomic dispar-
ities in environmental exposures are related to
racial and socioeconomic disparities in health
and mortality (20, 56, 109). Although quanti-
tative environmental justice studies have exam-
ined racial and socioeconomic disparities in the
distribution of environmental hazards and epi-
demiological studies have examined the health
effects of the environmental contaminants, the
two bodies of research have not yet been effec-
tively brought together. Evans & Kantrowitz
(20) identify many of the challenges of doing so.
First, they point out that data on environmen-
tal exposures broken out by race and income
are still very thin for many settings, includ-
ing the workplace, schools, and neighborhoods.
Second, even if such data were adequate, isolat-
ing the effects of environmental factors is very
difficult as the populations that are exposed are
also affected by a myriad of other suboptimal
conditions, e.g., poor housing, poor schools,
lack of access to health care, insufficient nu-
tritious food, lack of outdoor recreational op-
portunities, neighborhood crime, psychologi-
cal stressors, and others. In addition, there is
currently a lack of sufficient longitudinal data
that would allow for an examination of how
changes in environmental exposures over time
are linked to health outcomes over time as well
as how such changes are moderated by race
and income. Evans & Kantrowitz point out that
much more effort needs to be done to collect
both environmental exposure data and health
data by race and income. More also needs to be
done to examine temporal links and determine
how race and socioeconomic effects on health
are mediated by exposures to multiple environ-
mental stressors.
On the basis of environmental justice/social
green ideology that environmental problems
were at their root based on human oppression
of other humans, for years people have acted
on the assumption that achieving social justice
would move us down the road to environmen-
tal sustainability. This is certainly not turning
out to be an automatic relationship, and the
two can sometimes be quite different endeav-
ors. Therefore, a second and challenging new
line of research is being opened by Agyeman in
questioning how justice and sustainability actu-
ally might fit together. His chapter in his 2003
coedited volume Just Sustainabilities: Develop-
ment in an Unequal World (110) and his 2006
book Sustainable Communities and the Challenge
of Environmental Justice (111) begin the develop-
ment of a new theoretical perspective. The Just
Sustainability Paradigm is “the need to ensure
a better quality of life for all, now and into the
future, in a just and equitable manner, while
living within the limits of supporting ecosys-
tems” (110). He argues that the Just Sustain-
ability Paradigm broadly “requires sustainabil-
ity to take on a redistributive function,” and lo-
cal groups taking this approach “are operating
within an EJ [environmental justice] framework
but are also exploring the wider and emerging
terrain of sustainable development.” Returning
to the core point, these two different demands
must both be kept in the forefront, and one
alone will not lead us to enduring solutions.
As mentioned in the last section, there are
now numerous transnational social movement
organizations concerned with environmental
justice and human rights issues focused on a
range of state and industrial sectors. Taken to-
gether, these global organizations and networks
constitute a formidable presence at interna-
tional treaty negotiations; within corporate
shareholder meetings; in the halls of congresses,
parliaments, and city councils; and within local
community settings. Even so, they are only
a part of the broader global movement for
environmental justice. Arguably, the most im-
portant components of that movement are the
domestic local, regional, and national organi-
zations in the various nations and communities
in which scores of environmental justice battles
rage every day. Those groups provide the
frontline participants in the struggles and local
legitimacy for transnational social movements
and their networks. Together, the numerous
local grassroots organizations and their collab-
orating global networks produce and maintain a Environmental Justice 423
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Participants of the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, held October 24–27, 1991,
adopted the following principles:
1. Environmental Justice affirms the sacredness of Mother Earth, ecological unity and the interdependence of
all species, and the right to be free from ecological destruction.
2. Environmental Justice demands that public policy be based on mutual respect and justice for all peoples,
free from any form of discrimination or bias.
3. Environmental Justice mandates the right to ethical, balanced and responsible uses of land and renewable
resources in the interest of a sustainable planet for humans and other living things.
4. Environmental Justice calls for universal protection from nuclear testing, extraction, production and disposal
of toxic/hazardous wastes and poisons and nuclear testing that threaten the fundamental right to clean air,
land, water, and food.
5. Environmental Justice affirms the fundamental right to political, economic, cultural and environmental
self-determination of all peoples.
6. Environmental Justice demands the cessation of the production of all toxins, hazardous wastes, and ra-
dioactive materials, and that all past and current producers be held strictly accountable to the people for
detoxification and the containment at the point of production.
7. Environmental Justice demands the right to participate as equal partners at every level of decision-making,
including needs assessment, planning, implementation, enforcement and evaluation.
8. Environmental Justice affirms the right of all workers to a safe and healthy work environment without being
forced to choose between an unsafe livelihood and unemployment. It also affirms the right of those who
work at home to be free from environmental hazards.
9. Environmental Justice protects the right of victims of environmental injustice to receive full compensation
and reparations for damages as well as quality health care.
10. Environmental Justice considers governmental acts of environmental injustice a violation of international
law, the Universal Declaration On Human Rights, and the United Nations Convention on Genocide.
11. Environmental Justice must recognize a special legal and natural relationship of Native Peoples to the
U.S. government through treaties, agreements, compacts, and covenants affirming sovereignty and self-
12. Environmental Justice affirms the need for urban and rural ecological policies to clean up and rebuild our
cities and rural areas in balance with nature, honoring the cultural integrity of all our communities, and
provided fair access for all to the full range of resources.
13. Environmental Justice calls for the strict enforcement of principles of informed consent, and a halt to the
testing of experimental reproductive and medical procedures and vaccinations on people of color.
14. Environmental Justice opposes the destructive operations of multi-national corporations.
15. Environmental Justice opposes military occupation, repression and exploitation of lands, peoples and cul-
tures, and other life forms.
16. Environmental Justice calls for the education of present and future generations, which emphasizes social
and environmental issues, based on our experience and an appreciation of our diverse cultural perspectives.
17. Environmental Justice requires that we, as individuals, make personal and consumer choices to consume as
little of Mother Earth’s resources and to produce as little waste as possible; and make the conscious decision
to challenge and reprioritize our lifestyles to insure the health of the natural world for present and future
424 Mohai ·Pellow ·Roberts
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critical part of the transnational public sphere
Today, environmental justice and human
rights movements are merging together as a
global force for social change and democra-
tization. Activists in Europe, the Americas,
Africa, and Asia are collaborating to challenge
socially and ecologically harmful state and
corporate polices concerning hydroelectric
power, incineration, and mineral extraction,
for example, while offering alternatives for
sustainability and social justice. Articulating
a vision of global justice and human rights,
the Principles of Environmental Justice
(see box)—drafted in 1991 at the First National
People of Color Environmental Leadership
Summit in Washington, DC—contained a
number of key demands in this vein. The
principles declared rights “to be free from
ecological destruction”; to be “free from any
form of discrimination or bias”; the “right to
clean air, land, water, and food”; the “right to
political, economic, cultural and environmental
self-determination of all peoples”; and the right
“to a safe and healthy work environment.”
Importantly, principle 10 argues that govern-
mental acts of environmental injustice are viola-
tions of international law and of “the Universal
Declaration On Human Rights, and the United
Nations Convention on Genocide.” Taken
separately and together, these principles speak
impressively to a body of international law and
human rights that has been in development for
six decades (112). More importantly, in order
for these principles to become reality, states and
corporations would have to undergo dramatic
transformations that would embrace democ-
racy as standard operating procedure. The
work of activists in the environmental justice
and human rights movements has become quite
sophisticated at combating global environ-
mental inequalities through the engagement
of a range of institutions, thus developing an
emerging form of global citizenship that might
ultimately lead to greater democratization of
our global society. In their turn, transnational
environmental justice movements may bring
new external levers and emerging global norms
back into the United States, whence this
movement and scholarly field began.
1. Environmental justice scholarship and the movement by the same name were inspired
initially by protests in Warren County, North Carolina.
2. Hundreds of studies have now documented unequal exposures by race, ethnicity, and
economic class.
3. Disproportionate impact of hazards on minority communities can occur regardless of
racist intent.
4. Unequal enforcement and unequal attention by agencies and corporations in cleaning
up affected neighborhoods or relocating residents also are part of the problem.
5. Explanations for the existence of environmental injustice include economic inequality,
sociopolitical exclusion, and racial discrimination.
6. Globalization has created new patterns of exposures and opportunities for environmental
justice movement building.
7. Climate change has been shown to create unequal impacts on communities of color,
indigenous peoples, the poor, and on developing countries. Environmental Justice 425
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ANRV390-EG34-17 ARI 14 September 2009 9:26
1. Research is needed to tie racial disparities in environmental burdens to racial disparities
in health. The same is true of economic inequalities.
2. Research is needed to examine the promises and pitfalls associated with the globalization
of environmental justice struggles.
3. Research is needed to explore the environmental justice implications of climate change
impacts and proposed solutions.
4. The potential role of green technologies and green businesses in reducing exposures and
unequal exposures to risks are unknown.
5. There is a critical need for understanding the role of efforts to achieve just sustainability—
the combination of social justice and sustainability in policy making.
6. Policy options in response to documented environmental injustice are underdeveloped.
The authors are not aware of any affiliations, memberships, funding, or financial holdings that
might be perceived as affecting the objectivity of this review.
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J. Timmons Roberts was affiliated with the College of William and Mary when this article was
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Annual Review of
and Resources
Volume 34, 2009 Contents
Preface pppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp
Who Should Read This Series? pppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppvii
I. Earth’s Life Support Systems
The Detection and Attribution of Human Influence on Climate
Dáithí A. Stone, Myles R. Allen, Peter A. Stott, Pardeep Pall, Seung-Ki Min,
Toru Nozawa, and Seiji Yukimoto pppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp1
On the Increasing Vulnerability of the World Ocean
to Multiple Stresses
Edward L. Miles ppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp17
Global Biogeochemical Cycling of Mercury: A Review
Noelle E. Selin ppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp43
Interactions Between Biogeochemistry and Hydrologic Systems
Kathleen A. Lohse, Paul D. Brooks, Jennifer C. McIntosh, Thomas Meixner,
and Travis E. Huxman pppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp65
Nitrogen in Agriculture: Balancing the Cost of an Essential Resource
G. Philip Robertson and Peter M. Vitousek pppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp97
II. Human Use of Environment and Resources
Nuclear Power: Economic, Safety, Health, and Environmental Issues
of Near-Term Technologies
M.V. Ramana pppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp127
Global Groundwater? Issues and Solutions
Mark Giordano pppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp153
Crop Yield Gaps: Their Importance, Magnitudes, and Causes
David B. Lobell, Kenneth G. Cassman, and Christopher B. Field pppppppppppppppppppppppp179
Annu. Rev. Environ. Resourc. 2009.34:405-430. Downloaded from
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Water for Agriculture: Maintaining Food Security
under Growing Scarcity
Mark W. Rosegrant, Claudia Ringler, and Tingju Zhu ppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp205
Emerging Threats to Human Health from Global
Environmental Change
Samuel S. Myers and Jonathan A. Patz ppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp223
III. Management, Guidance, and Governance of Resources and Environment
Connectivity and the Governance of Multilevel Social-Ecological
Systems: The Role of Social Capital
Eduardo S. Brondizio, Elinor Ostrom, and Oran R. Young ppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp253
Economic Globalization and the Environment
Kevin P. Gallagher pppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp279
Voluntary Environmental Programs: Assessing Their Effectiveness
Jonathan C. Borck and Cary Coglianese ppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp305
The Economic Valuation of Environmental Amenities and
Disamenities: Methods and Applications
Robert Mendelsohn and Sheila Olmstead ppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp325
Infrastructure and the Environment
Martin W. Doyle and David G. Havlick ppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp349
Scientific Bases of Macroenvironmental Indicators
Gordon H. Orians and David Policansky pppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp375
Environmental Justice
Paul Mohai, David Pellow, and J. Timmons Roberts ppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp405
We Speak for the Trees: Media Reporting on the Environment
Maxwell T. Boykoff pppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp431
Cumulative Index of Contributing Authors, Volumes 25–34 ppppppppppppppppppppppppppp459
Cumulative Index of Chapter Titles, Volumes 25–34 pppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp463
An online log of corrections to Annual Review of Environment and Resources articles may
be found at
Contents ix
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... The environmental justice movement in the United States was triggered by protests in response to the proposed dumping of 120 million pounds of hazardous waste in Warren County in 1982, the county with the highest proportion of African Americans in North Carolina (Bullard, 1990). Since then, decades of scholarship have shown that race is often the most significant predictor of where hazardous waste facilities are located (Mohai et al., 2009;Martinez-Alier et al., 2016). Patterns of unfair exposure of Black, Indigenous, and other socially, politically, and economically marginalized communities to hazardous waste have also been documented in marine and coastal spaces (Bennett et al., 2023). ...
... Yet, the cases reviewed here suggest that blue injustices have been experienced long before the blue economy and are driven by multiple processes. Drawing on the environmental justice literature, we argue that blue justice scholarship should engage more closely with intersecting drivers, including sociopolitical and racial discrimination, across historical and contemporary contexts and scales (Mohai et al., 2009). Understanding the root causes of blue injustices may help identify who is most responsible for injustice and what role they should play in reducing them. ...
... Prior work on environmental justice (EJ) has advocated for and advanced the needs of people of color and low-income people to reduce disproportionate exposure to environmental and health risks and increase access to environmental benefits, including food, housing, clean energy, green space, health care as well as transportation [1,2]. Starting in the late 1990s, scholars and activists have been applying frameworks of environmental justice to transportation planning and development [3][4][5]. ...
Full-text available
Transportation justice studies have largely focused on metropolitan areas, and the transportation disparities in rural areas and their most disadvantaged population are not well understood. Our study explored transportation injustices in high environmental risk communities in Vermont. We found that low-income communities and people of color disproportionately face inequitable access to transportation services: they are more likely to be concerned about lack of transportation, more likely to not own or lease a personal vehicle and rely more heavily on public transportation. Our study also found that those without a personal vehicle and those largely dependent on public transportation have less access to healthy food, are likely to go hungry, have greater reports of asthma, and have less access to primary care physicians and jobs. The transportation policies in the state are also procedurally unjust. These disadvantages, combined with higher exposures to environmental risks, also pose implications for public health and well-being. A combined transition toward sustainable mobility and transportation justice should prioritize greater equity in the distribution of transportation investment in infrastructure and services; recognition of historical patterns that inform current uneven and unequal mobilities; procedural and democratic engagement of the marginalized in transportation design, planning and policy-making; a capabilities approach to plan transportation systems that improve opportunities, wellness, and quality of life for the most disadvantaged population. Consideration should also be given to designing a sustainable transportation transition that prioritizes attention for all modes of transport accessibility and mobility, including non-motorized and public transit modes, in planning and policies so that streets are not dominated by a single mode of transportation, such as cars.
Stakeholders are groups of people who are able to impact, or who are impacted by, an organization or intervention. Engaging stakeholders is widely recognized as a critical aspect of sustainability because it attempts to integrate social aspects of development with economic and environmental concerns. Efforts to engage stakeholder groups take many forms and range from information sharing to capacity building for decision-making to participation in determining courses of action. This chapter reviews these modes of engagement and provides several recent examples of case studies from the global sustainability literature. Together, these studies demonstrate how each mode of engagement is unique in its ability to involve stakeholders in sustainable development efforts and how each mode has its own challenges in implementation.
In response to national attention on questions of how racial justice is still unrealized, different academic institutes have sought to increase diversity and justice in their curricula, institutional practices, and immersive experiences for their students. This has normally taken the form of diversity, equity, and inclusion principles. Yet there remain significant obstacles to how inequities and lack of attention to power differential across race, class, and gender continue to create imbalances that affect the ability to conduct just research. In this piece, I describe six critical points of engagement for sustainable engagement for just research. These concerns range from the field to the classroom and identify how existing structures can reinforce dominant narratives and understandings linked to colonial histories of extraction and the exploitation of knowledge. I offer tangible and credible alternatives for grounding knowledge generation in ways that are less restrictive than the coercive practices of the past.
Environmental injustices have exposed our current system of reliance on polluting and toxic chemicals and chemistries as untenable and one whose risks and burdens are disproportionately borne by those who are disadvantaged. Aiming for effective interventions to create system-wide change, green chemistry and adjacent approaches are powerful leverage points to deeply address environmental injustices by changing the very nature of the molecular (for example, chemical, material, energy) basis of our economy and our society, obviating the need to rely on procedural systems that can either serve to enable progress or reinforce the status quo. Owing to the underlying chemical nature of many environmental injustices, green chemistry can play a role in advancing environmental justice towards a more equitable future.
Chronicles from the Environmental Justice Frontline, first published in 1991, provides a rare glimpse of the environmental justice movement as it plays out in four landmark struggles at the end of the twentieth century. The book describes the stories of everyday people who have decided to take to the streets to battle what they perceive as injustice: the unequal exposure of minorities and the poor to the 'bads' produced by our industrial society. In these struggles residents and local, state, and national environmental and social justice groups are on one side pitted against local and state government representatives and industry on the other. By employing historical and theoretical lenses in viewing these struggles, the book reveals how situations of environmental injustice are created and how they are resolved. These cases bear great similarity to battles occurring across the nation, and are setting precedents for national and state agencies as they handle these cases.
By examining environmental change through the lens of conflicting social agendas, Andrew Hurley uncovers the historical roots of environmental inequality in contemporary urban America. Hurley's study focuses on the steel mill community of Gary, Indiana, a city that was sacrificed, like a thousand other American places, to industrial priorities in the decades following World War II. Although this period witnessed the emergence of a powerful environmental crusade and a resilient quest for equality and social justice among blue-collar workers and African Americans, such efforts often conflicted with the needs of industry. To secure their own interests, manufacturers and affluent white suburbanites exploited divisions of race and class, and the poor frequently found themselves trapped in deteriorating neighborhoods and exposed to dangerous levels of industrial pollution. In telling the story of Gary, Hurley reveals liberal capitalism's difficulties in reconciling concerns about social justice and quality of life with the imperatives of economic growth. He also shows that the power to mold the urban landscape was intertwined with the ability to govern social relations. © 1995 The University of North Carolina Press. All rights reserved.