Rise of the Environmental Justice Movement in the United States
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Rise of the Environmental Justice Movement in the United States and Introduction to Global Environmental Politics. “Environmental Justice”. Robert Figueroa Claudia Mills. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Created by the Revised Clean Air Act, 1970.

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Environmental justice

Rise of the Environmental Justice Movement in the United StatesandIntroduction to Global Environmental Politics

Environmental justice
“Environmental Justice” States

Robert Figueroa Claudia Mills

Environmental protection agency epa
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) States

  • Created by the Revised Clean Air Act, 1970.

  • Set air, water, pesticide, industrial chemical, and toxic and hazardous waste standards to protect human health.

  • Ecological health standards were added later.

Some criticisms of the epa
Some Criticisms of the EPA States

  • Focused on regulation and not on prevention of harms to health.

  • Racial divide in enforcement.

  • Controversial history: Numerous exemptions to regulatory standards were granted, and standards were often held hostage by presidential administrations and special interests.

Environmental justice
Risk States

  • Many environmental legal standards are based on the concept of risk.

  • Risk = Probability of a harm multiplied by the magnitude of its consequences.

  • Risk is an elusive and value-laden concept.

  • Risk is often separated into risk assessment and risk management.

Environmental standards
Environmental Standards States

1. Who should set these?

2. Who should be protected?

3. What should standards measure?

4. How do we get people, companies, and governments to comply?

5. What should be the punishment for non-compliance?

These questions might not be easily answered in terms of distributive justice.

Mainstream environmentalism group of ten in the 1980s
Mainstream Environmentalism: StatesGroup of Ten in the 1980s

1. National Wildlife Federation

2. Izaak Walton League

3. National Audubon Society

4. Sierra Club

5. Wilderness Society

6. National Resources Defense Council

7. Environmental Defense Fund

8. Environmental Policy Center

9. Friends of the Earth

10. National Parks and Conservation Association

Criticisms of mainstream environmentalism in the 1980s
Criticisms of Mainstream Environmentalism in the 1980s States

  • Had lost its bite and become a culture of reform.

  • Was held hostage by corporate philanthropy and big money.

  • Was dominated by professionalism.

  • Had lost touch with its grassroots constituency.

  • Still did not adequately address urban and rural environmental concerns.

  • Was still largely a white men’s club.

Enter the environmental justice movement
Enter: The Environmental Justice Movement States

By the 1980s, a new type of grassroots environmentalism had clearly arrived in the U.S.

  • It was a blending of social justice and environmental concerns.

  • It was led primarily by people of color, women, blue collar labor, and marginalized peoples.

  • It focused more on urban and rural environments: “where we live, where we work, and where we play.”

  • It was largely a response to inequities in the distribution of environmental burdens, the failure of environmental laws and governmental agencies to protect people, and the failure of mainstream environmental groups to address social concerns.

  • Distributive justice was not its overriding concern.

Different tributaries that nourished the stream of the ej movement in the u s
Different Tributaries That Nourished the Stream of the EJ Movement in the U.S.

  • Civil Rights Movement

  • Anti-Toxics Movement

  • Labor Movement

  • Native American Indian Struggles

  • Academia

  • Mainstream Environmentalism

Some central concerns of the ej movement in the u s
Some Central Concerns Movement in the U.S.of the EJ Movement in the U.S.

  • Siting of facilities that produce toxic and hazardous materials and waste

  • Environmental racism

  • Institutional and environmental discrimination

  • Occupational health and safety in industrial and agricultural sectors

  • Land rights

  • Urban environmental politics and the right to a safe, livable environment

  • Struggles of indigenous peoples

Justice dimensions of environmental justice
Justice Dimensions of Environmental Justice Movement in the U.S.

1. Distributive Justice: How should environmental burdens and benefits be distributed?

And there’s also:

2. Procedural Justice: What are fair and equitable procedures for making distribution decisions?


  • What is missing is an examination of social, cultural, symbolic, and institutional conditions underlying unfair distributions of burdens and benefits.

Another justice dimension of environmental justice
Another Justice Dimension Movement in the U.S.of Environmental Justice

Participatory Justice

  • Who gets to make the decisions about how to distribute environmental burdens and benefits?

  • One important insight from the EJ Movement is that participatory justice might be more important than distributive and procedural justice—focusing on distributions and procedures obscures social structures and the institutional context in which environmental decisions are made.

  • But there’s more—next slide please.

Recognition and identity
Recognition and Identity Movement in the U.S.

  • If you aren’t recognized and respected, you don’t participate in decision-making.

  • Recognition and identity are not goods to be distributed like burdens and benefits.

  • This creates a need to look at the relationships between social, cultural, and environmental harms and benefits, as well as the lack of democratic participation.

Once more justice dimensions of environmental justice
Once More: Justice Dimensions of Environmental Justice Movement in the U.S.

  • Recognition or identity justice

  • Participatory justice

  • Distributive justice

  • Procedural justice

    Slogan of the EJ Movement:

    “We speak for ourselves.”

Informed consent
Informed Consent Movement in the U.S.

Many cases of environmental injustice involve a violation of informed consent.

Informed Consent:

1. Competence

2. Voluntariness

a. Free of compulsion and threats

b. There are comparable alternatives

3. Disclosure

4. Understanding

Principles of environmental justice
Principles of Environmental Justice Movement in the U.S.


Transformative politics of the environmental justice movement ejm
Transformative Politics of Movement in the U.S.the Environmental Justice Movement (EJM)

  • EJM reconstructs social relations through grassroots actions.

  • EJM concerns self-representation and agency and is not merely a new consciousness.

  • Redefining, reinventing, and reconstructing political and cultural discourse and practices can lead to fundamental social and environmental change.

  • Transformation involves individuals, communities, and institutions.

Academic activist robert d bullard
Academic/Activist Robert D. Bullard Movement in the U.S.


Bullard dominant environmental protection paradigm
Bullard: Dominant Movement in the U.S.Environmental Protection Paradigm

  • Exists to manage, regulate, and distribute risks.

  • Reinforces, rather than challenges, existing unjust stratifications of people and places.

    “The Environmental Justice Movement provides a bottom-up challenge to this paradigm.”

Bullard impetus for a paradigm shift
Bullard: Impetus for a Paradigm Shift Movement in the U.S.

Need to address:

  • Procedural Equity: extent to which governing rules, regulations, evaluation criteria, and enforcement are applied uniformly across the board.

  • Geographical Equity: location and spatial configuration of communities and their proximity to environmental hazards and LULUs (locally unwanted land uses).

  • Social Equity: role of sociological factors in environmental decision-making.

Bullard s new environmental justice framework
Bullard’s New Environmental Justice Framework Movement in the U.S.

  • Ground the framework on the principle that all individuals have the right to be protected from environmental degradation.

  • Also ground the framework on the precautionary principle to protect workers, communities, and ecosystems.

  • Shift the burden of proof to polluters and dischargers who do harm, who discriminate, and/or who do not give equal protection to all racial and ethnic groups.

  • Adopt a public health model of prevention as the preferred strategy to eliminate a threat before it occurs.

Environmental justice
Global Environmental Governance Movement in the U.S.: Chapter III “From Stockholm to Johannesburg: First Attempt at Global Environmental Governance”

James Gustave Speth Peter M. Haas

North south distinctions
North-South Distinctions Movement in the U.S.

  • Geography

  • Economic Standing

  • Political Hegemony

  • Former Colonizers vs. Former Colonies

  • Developed World vs. Developing World

  • First World vs. Third World

Characterizing the south
Characterizing the South Movement in the U.S.

  • Colonial legacies

  • Low average per capita income

  • Low rates of literacy

  • Low health status

  • Low life expectancies

  • Limited infrastructure

  • Fragile economic progress

  • High vulnerability to economic setbacks

  • Lack of capital

  • Large agricultural sectors

  • Reliance on export of primary products

Responding to global environmental threats
Responding to Global Movement in the U.S.Environmental Threats

1. Private Voluntary Responses: corporations and

consumers see it in their own best long-term

interests to protect the environment.

2. Government Responses: governments use their

powers to tax, spend, and regulate to protect the environment.

a. Unilateral responses

b. Multilateral customs (“soft law”)

c. Multilateral conventions/treaties (“hard law”)

Stockholm conference 1972 united nations conference on the human environment
Stockholm Conference 1972: Movement in the U.S.United Nations Conference on the Human Environment

  • It was largely ignored by heads of state.

  • Communist countries withdrew on ideological grounds.

  • Developing countries were wary about Northern concern with pollution and nature conservation taking precedence over poverty and underdevelopment.

  • The conference offered no real guidance on how to balance sovereign rights to natural resources with environmental responsibilities.

  • After Stockholm, there was a lot of talk about global environmental governance, but very little concrete action was initially taken.

Rio earth summit 1992 united nations conference on environment and development
Rio Earth Summit 1992: Movement in the U.S.United Nations Conference on Environment and Development

  • 178 nations sent delegations, and 118 heads of state/government attended.

  • The Rio Declaration was created. (See p. 71 in GEG.)

  • Agenda 21 was created.

  • Statement of Forest Principles was created.

  • Convention on Biological Diversity was drafted.

  • UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was drafted.

  • But there was no agreement on an Earth Charter.

Johannesburg summit 2002 world summit for sustainable development
Johannesburg Summit 2002: Movement in the U.S.World Summit for Sustainable Development

  • Millennium Development Goals on water, energy, health, agriculture, and biodiversity were asserted. (See p. 77 in GEG.)

  • There were significant discussions about the 3 dimensions of sustainable development (“triple bottom line”): economy, environment, and society.

  • But no implementation plan for the Millennium Development Goals was forthcoming.

Stereotypical development agendas
Stereotypical Development Agendas Movement in the U.S.

  • North: Safeguard monetary interests, affluent lifestyles, and political hegemony; utilize Southern markets for labor and as waste sinks.

  • South: Overcome poverty, achieve higher standards of living, receive technology transfers from North, and enter globalized markets.

Stereotypical ecology agendas
Stereotypical Ecology Agendas Movement in the U.S.

  • North: Prevent environmental degradation and catastrophes, protect nature, and conserve biodiversity.

  • South: Sustain local environments, progress through sustainable development, and assert differentiated responsibilities.

Parallels between environmental justice in the united states and global environmental justice
Parallels Between Environmental Justice in the United States and Global Environmental Justice

  • Inequity: unfair distributions of burdens and benefits.

  • Dominance and Hegemony: unequal participation and lack of recognition and respect.

  • Ineffective Legal Institutions and Norms: deficient international treaties and lack of procedural remedies.