Environmental Injustice in the United States: Myths and Realities

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

The future environmental justice political stream will most likely be characterized by efforts to maintain its current policy positions, and because environmental justice is not covered by legislative enactment, future activity may be lodged with Congress.


Summary and Conclusions

The environmental justice movement has competed for a place on the public agenda for about three decades. During this time the movement has undergone three periods of redefinition. In the 1970s, it was seen as an inner-city environmental movement whose primary aim was to get human health concerns addressed as part of the larger environmental movement. The civil rights aspect of the issue was present at this time; however, it was not the main focal point. This changed in the 1980s, when the issue fell under the rubric of environmental racism. The 1982 Warren County protest brought the issue to the attention of lawmakers, civil rights activists, and, at a less active level, environmental organizations. Although the issue did not receive the national legislative attention desired by many of the environmental justice activists, the issue was brought to the attention of established national policy communities such as the civil rights community and the Congressional Black Caucus. Academia began to take notice of the issue during this time, which led to the redefinition of the issue that emerged in the late 1980s--that of environmental justice. The redefinition of the issue as environmental justice has moved it to a more stable place on the public policy agenda.

In regard to the future of the environmental justice movement, much will hinge upon the political climate following the 2000 presidential elections. During the late 1990s, the only institutionalized federal environmental justice policy initiative has been within the executive office. However, a new presidential administration in 2000 might rescind the executive order of 1994. In such an event, there would be no binding federal commitment to environmental justice other than a general protection offered under the Equal Protection clause and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The political climate in Congress also presents a barrier to the advancement of environmental justice concerns. The conservative tone of Congress harkens back to the decentralizing agenda of the Reagan era. State power is increasing while federal budgets are decreasing. As seen during the Reagan era, this led to a polarization by the civil rights and environmental movements in order to protect their policy bargaining positions and retain past policy gains. During the 1980s, this led to a disappearance of environmental justice from the policy stream; it may do the same thing, at the federal level, after 2000. However, states have recently begun to take

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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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