Environmental Injustice in the United States: Myths and Realities

Environmental Injustice in the United States: Myths and Realities

Environmental Injustice in the United States: Myths and Realities

Environmental Injustice in the United States: Myths and Realities

Synopsis

Environmental Injustice in the United States provides systematic insight into the social, economic, and political dynamics of environmental decision-making, and the impacts of those decisions on minority communities. The first part of the book examines closely the history of the environmental justice movement and the scholarly literature to date, with a discussion about how the issue made the public agenda in the first place. The second part of the book is a unique quantitative analysis of the relationship among race, class, politicalmobilization, and environmental harm at three levels-- state, county, and city. Despite the initial skepticism of the authors, their study finds both race and class to be significant variables in explaining patterns of environmental harm. The third part of the book then offers policy recommendations to decisionmakers, based on the book's findings. It was named a Choice Outstanding Academic Book of 2001.

Excerpt

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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