Sustainable Communities and the Challenge of Environmental Justice

Sustainable Communities and the Challenge of Environmental Justice

Sustainable Communities and the Challenge of Environmental Justice

Sustainable Communities and the Challenge of Environmental Justice


Popularized in the movies Erin Brockovich and A Civil Action, "environmental justice" refers to any local response to a threat against community health. In this book, Julian Agyeman argues that environmental justice and the sustainable communities movement are compatible in practical ways. Yet sustainability, which focuses on meeting our needs today while not compromising the ability of our successors to meet their needs, has not always partnered with the challenges of environmental justice.

Sustainable Communities and the Challenge of Environmental Justice explores the ideological differences between these two groups and shows how they can work together. Agyeman provides concrete examples of potential model organizations that employ the types of strategies he advocates. This book is vital to the efforts of community organizers, policymakers, and everyone interested in a better environment and community health.


ACE as an environmental justice group has always struggled with
its relationship with the more traditional or mainstream environ
mental and sustainability groups. We’ve played with them. “Clean
Buses for Boston” was quite intentionally, on my part, an effort to
reach out to more mainstream groups in coalition, to bond with
them.…Frankly, we didn’t need them, but we were doing similar
work.…The Boston Foundation stepped up and then the Public
Welfare Foundation and everybody stepped up because what were
we doing? We were bringing neighborhood environmental justice
organizations together with mainstream environmental and sus
tainability organizations.

—Bill Shutkin, co-founder,
Alternatives for Community and Environment

The relationship between environmental justice and sustainability groups has traditionally been uneasy. What might at first glance seem like an obvious case for partnership, for coalition, is fraught with ideological and other concerns, despite the obvious enthusiasm of funders. How has it come to this, and more to the point, how do we move forward?

Environmental Justice and Sustainability

Environmental justice and sustainability are two concepts that have evolved over the past two decades to provide new, exciting, and challenging directions for public policy and planning. Environmental justice can be understood as a local, grassroots, or “bottom-up” community reaction to external threats to the health of the community, which have been shown to disproportionately affect people of color and low-income . . .

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