Power, Justice, and the Environment: A Critical Appraisal of the Environmental Justice Movement

By Shepard, Peggy | Environmental Health Perspectives, October 2006 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Power, Justice, and the Environment: A Critical Appraisal of the Environmental Justice Movement

Shepard, Peggy, Environmental Health Perspectives

Edited by David Naguib Pellow and Robert J. Brulle

Cambridge, MA:MIT Press, 2005. 339 pp. ISBN: 0-262-16233-4, $25

Over the past 18 years, hundreds of books have been published on the environmental justice movement (EJM); however, this is one of the first books to initiate a comprehensive dialogue that critiques strategies, tactics, and discursive frames; examine issues of organizational structure, governance, and resource base; assess goals and outcomes; and pose questions challenging academics and activists to consider where the movement has been and where it may go.

The EJM--which emerged in the late 1980s from struggles within communities of color and low-income communities that have been disproportionately affected by pollution--is characterized by editors Pellow, an activist-scholar who has published widely on EJ, and Brulle, an associate professor of environmental policy, as "a political response to the deterioration of the conditions of everyday life as society reinforces existing social inequities while exceeding the limits to growth. Thus the EJM laid a foundation for environmental and social justice politics in the twenty-first century."

The heart and strength of these essays by academics, EJ practitioners, and advocates is the challenge to engage foundational concepts of the EJM that most serious observers and activists have been loath publicly to address. Yet 15 years since the historic first People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, one reads this assessment and analysis and wonders why it has taken so long to begin this important inquiry.

The editors' opening chapter succinctly summarizes literature on inequality, social justice movements, and environmental degradation, and presents provocative conclusions. Although Pellow and Brulle note that the EJM has affected the direction of environmental policy, research, and activism and that the EJM has had its "clearest victories" leading local community struggles, they question whether the EJM has achieved its goals and conclude that the "outlook is not positive." They issue a challenge, echoed by the authors, to the EJM to "complement its well-honed acumen for opposition to unsustainable projects to a concrete vision and plan of action for construction and protection of sustainable communities"--a challenge that is being met by many EJ organizations.

The collection, targeted to scholars, theorists, practitioners, and activists, has three sections. In the first, "Environmental Quality and Justice: Progress or Retreat?" Bryant and Hockman compare the Civil Rights and EJ movements. Some chapters break the chain of synergy and some authors' conclusions contradict others, but Benford's "Half-Life of the Environmental Justice Frame: Innovation, Diffusion, and Stagnation" complements other authors in this book with his provocative argument that the "EJ frame suffers from stagnation as a result of its diffuse conceptualization, the many issues it seeks to address, the subordination of environmentalism to human justice, and its failure to embrace and articulate revolutionary solutions.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Power, Justice, and the Environment: A Critical Appraisal of the Environmental Justice Movement


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?