Environmental Injustice in the United States: Myths and Realities

By James P. Lester; David W. Allen et al. | Go to book overview

1
Introduction The Nature of the Problem

An emerging body of literature, collected under the genres of environmental racism or environmental equity, argues that unbalanced proportions of environmental hazards are located in black, Hispanic, and poor communities (see, e.g., Mohai and Bryant, 1992; Bullard, 1990a, 1993a; Capek, 1993; Jordan , 1980; Szasz, 1994; United Church of Christ, 1987). Sometimes the expression "environmental justice" is used in connection with this issue. This term, broadly defined, gives rise to at least two testable propositions: the environmental racism hypothesis, which maintains that unbalanced proportions of environmental hazards may be located in minority communities; and the environmental classism hypothesis, which focuses on whether the same problem affects poorer communities more so than affluent ones. Both hypotheses are important and, to a large extent, because of the environmental racism hypothesis, the topic of environmental justice has been called the civil rights movement of the 1990s." Moreover, the growth of the environmental justice movement in the United States surprised even seasoned policymakers by its speed and the magnitude of its impact on national policy ( Cutter, 1995; Goldman, 1992; Grossman, 1991).

A brief review of the history of this movement is instructive insofar as it illustrates how this issue rapidly arrived on governmental agendas. One of the first reports to document the correlation between toxic risk and income was the Council on Environmental Quality's (CEQ) 1971 annual report to the president. The CEQ report acknowledged that income disparities adversely affected the ability of the urban poor to elevate the quality of their environment. Environmental justice became a nationally recognized issue in 1982, when a protest in Warren County, North Carolina, resulted in a request for the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) to study hazardous waste landfill siting in EPA Region 4. The GAO study found that three of

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Environmental Injustice in the United States: Myths and Realities
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Dedications v
  • Contents vii
  • Figures and Tables ix
  • Preface and Acknowledgments xiii
  • 1 - Introduction the Nature of the Problem 1
  • Notes 7
  • 2 - Environmental Injustice Research: Reviewing the Evidence 9
  • Notes 18
  • 3 - Environmental Justice: Getting on the Public Agenda 21
  • Summary and Conclusions 51
  • Notes 52
  • 4 - Modeling Environmental Injustice: Concepts, Measures, Hypotheses, and Method of Analysis 57
  • Summary 73
  • Notes 74
  • 5 - Environmental Injustice in America's States 79
  • Notes 106
  • 6 - Environmental Injustice in America's Counties 113
  • Conclusion 129
  • Notes 131
  • 7 - Environmental Injustice in America's Cities 133
  • Conclusion 144
  • Notes 147
  • 8 - Summary and Conclusions from the Multilevel Analyses 149
  • Conclusion 156
  • Note 157
  • 9 - Existing Federal and State Policies for Environmental Justice: Problems and Prospects 159
  • Summary and Conclusion 171
  • Summary and Conclusion 171
  • 10 - Designing an Effective Policy for Environmental Justice: Implications and Recommendations 173
  • Conclusion 187
  • Notes 188
  • References 189
  • About the Authors 203
  • Index 205
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