Global Environmental Risk

By Jeanne X. Kasperson; Roger Kasperson | Go to book overview

7
Vulnerability, equity, and
global environmental change
Roger E. Kasperson, Jeanne X. Kasperson, and Kirstin Dow

Whether at national or global levels, environmental problems increasingly are fraught with questions of equity and fairness. In the United States, an environmental justice movement is in full flower and signs of a developing fairness debate are all around us. In 1985, the National Council of Churches established an Eco-Justice Working Group to address issues of environmental equity. In 1987, the United Council of Churches analysed the national pattern of hazardous waste facility sites in Toxic Waste and Race in the United States (UCC 1987; see also update in Goldman and Fitton 1994), arguing that such facilities were concentrated in poor communities with large minority populations. A 1990 “Conference on Race and the Incidence of Environmental Hazards” at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources spawned an informal action group. This “Michigan Coalition” petitioned William Reilly, then director of the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), to undertake a broad programme of environmental-equity initiatives with the following aims: to commission research geared towards understanding environmental risks faced by minority and low-income communities; to initiate projects to enhance risk communication targeted to minority and low-income population groups; to require, on a demonstration basis, that racial and socio-economic equity considerations be included in regulatory impact assessments; to include a racial and socio-economic dimension in geographic studies of environmental risk; to enhance the ability of minority academic institutions to participate in and contribute to the

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