ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE GROUPS: Grass-Roots Movement or NGO Network? Some Policy Implications
Rios, Jo Marie, Policy Studies Review
Environmental justice groups are a self-proclaimed grassroots, community-based movement with the general goal of inclusion in the policy process via the politics of protest. Some of the reasons attributed to the mobilization of collective activism have been perceived flaws within the political system itself, such as a lack of participatory and :representative democracy resulting in a lack of representation, the decline of the political parties (Cigler and Loomis, 1995) and the legacy of the Reagan Administration, e.g., the deliberate attempt to exclude citizen participation, strengthened the mobilization of grass-roots groups (Vig and Kraft, 1997). While there has been a resurgence of activism in numerous policy areas, such as term limitations, the women's movement, the property fights movement, there is a fundamental difference between these groups and the environmental justice movement, namely race and socioeconomic status. A grass-roots: or social movement, according to the tenets of the scholarly literature in the discipline of Sociology, are characterized by the politics of protest, blockades, sit-ins, an informal organizational structure, a lack of resources, and absence of dominant leadership. The types of activities and strategies undertaken by social movement groups belie inclusion in a relatively closed policy process specifically by virtue of the institutionalized strategies traditionally employed, such as consensus-building, compromise, and political brokering.
While there is no single definition of the environmental justice movement, there is general consesus that the terminology most often associated with this movement includes environmental justice, environmental racism, and environmental equity (Foremen, 1998; Camacho, 1998). The concepts of environmental justice and environmental racism are "rights-based." The term environmental justice is an umbrella nomenclature used to describe organizations seeking to promote social justice and equity due to distributional inequities via environmental policy (Sandweiss, 1998). It is a call for a social contract or a "Bill of Environmental Rights." This construct advances the position that there is a fundamental fight to political self-determination for all people (First National People of color Environmental Leadership Summit, 1991). Environmental racism can be defined as the deliberate or intentional siting of hazardous waste sites, landfills, incinerators, and polluting industries in communities inhabited by minorities and the poor. This race-based argument is grounded on the issues of political powerlessness and the lack of representation in the electoral and policy-making processes (Foreman, 1998; Weintraub, 1994; Szasz, 1994). Environmental equity is risk-based and generally espoused by the regulatory agencies. This notion is based on procedural equity and asserts that "zero-based risk" cannot be achieved. It is argued that if environmental justice groups have a "voice at the table," procedural equity will be served (Foreman, 1998). This concept tends to be eschewed by the environmental justice groups due to their quest for zero-based risk.
Using a political process perspective, this investigation quantitatively tests the framework of the political process model of insurgency (McAdam, 1982) and investigates the research question: Is the environmental justice movement a social movement or a network of nongovermental organizations (NGO's)? A factor analysis is used to identify those variables that lead to the emergence of social movement groups based on the political process model (McAdam, 1982) and a regression analysis provides some indicators of perceived success for the strategies and activities used by the environmental justice movement groups.
Much of the research on the environmental justice movement focuses on determining the extent of pollution present in communities inhabited by minorities and the …
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Publication information: Article title: ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE GROUPS: Grass-Roots Movement or NGO Network? Some Policy Implications. Contributors: Rios, Jo Marie - Author. Journal title: Policy Studies Review. Publication date: Summer-Autumn 2000. Page number: 179. © 2000 Policy Studies Organization. COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group.
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