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The Quest for Environmental Justice: Human Rights and the Politics of Pollution

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This much anticipated follow-up to Dr. Robert D. Bullard’s highly acclaimed Unequal Protection: Environmental Justice and Communities of Color captures the voices of frontline warriors who are battling environmental injustice and human rights abuses at the grassroots level around the world, and challenging government and industry. policies and globalization trends that pla This much anticipated follow-up to Dr. Robert D. Bullard’s highly acclaimed Unequal Protection: Environmental Justice and Communities of Color captures the voices of frontline warriors who are battling environmental injustice and human rights abuses at the grassroots level around the world, and challenging government and industry. policies and globalization trends that place people of color and the poor at special risk. Part I presents an overview of the early environmental justice movement and highlights key leadership roles assumed by women activists. Part II examines the lives of people living in “sacrifice zones”—toxic corridors (such as Louisiana’s infamous “Cancer Alley”) where high concentrations of polluting industries are found. Part III explores land use, land rights, resource extraction, and sustainable development conflicts, including Chicano struggles in America’s Southwest. Part IV examines human rights and global justice issues, including an analysis of South Africa’s legacy of environmental racism and the corruption and continuing violence plaguing the oil-rich Niger Delta. Together, the diverse contributors to this much-anticipated follow-up anthology present an inspiring and illuminating picture of the environmental justice movement in the first decade of the twenty-first century.


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This much anticipated follow-up to Dr. Robert D. Bullard’s highly acclaimed Unequal Protection: Environmental Justice and Communities of Color captures the voices of frontline warriors who are battling environmental injustice and human rights abuses at the grassroots level around the world, and challenging government and industry. policies and globalization trends that pla This much anticipated follow-up to Dr. Robert D. Bullard’s highly acclaimed Unequal Protection: Environmental Justice and Communities of Color captures the voices of frontline warriors who are battling environmental injustice and human rights abuses at the grassroots level around the world, and challenging government and industry. policies and globalization trends that place people of color and the poor at special risk. Part I presents an overview of the early environmental justice movement and highlights key leadership roles assumed by women activists. Part II examines the lives of people living in “sacrifice zones”—toxic corridors (such as Louisiana’s infamous “Cancer Alley”) where high concentrations of polluting industries are found. Part III explores land use, land rights, resource extraction, and sustainable development conflicts, including Chicano struggles in America’s Southwest. Part IV examines human rights and global justice issues, including an analysis of South Africa’s legacy of environmental racism and the corruption and continuing violence plaguing the oil-rich Niger Delta. Together, the diverse contributors to this much-anticipated follow-up anthology present an inspiring and illuminating picture of the environmental justice movement in the first decade of the twenty-first century.

30 review for The Quest for Environmental Justice: Human Rights and the Politics of Pollution

  1. 4 out of 5

    Erik

    While some of the details could be updated since this book came out in 2005, the basic point is more true today than it was 15 years ago: dirty industrial facilities are still overwhelmingly located in places where people of color predominate. "Why do some communities get dumped on while others don't? Why are environmental regulations vigorously enforced in some communities and not in other communities?" These are the questions that motivate Bullard's book. Examples of communities that have been d While some of the details could be updated since this book came out in 2005, the basic point is more true today than it was 15 years ago: dirty industrial facilities are still overwhelmingly located in places where people of color predominate. "Why do some communities get dumped on while others don't? Why are environmental regulations vigorously enforced in some communities and not in other communities?" These are the questions that motivate Bullard's book. Examples of communities that have been dumped on attempt to provide answers. Take Louisiana's "Cancer Alley," an 80 mile long strip of oil refineries, chemical plants and plastics factories located along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Dozens of polluting facilities are placed mostly in communities with a majority of black residents. Some of these date back to Reconstruction. And while the local residents get few benefits from such businesses -- jobs and economic development are often promised but seldom delivered -- local communities of color do bear the brunt of the costs. These include fouled air, water, and land, along with devastation to historic sites like burial grounds for the enslaved located on former plantations. Ironically, many dirty industrial plants in Cancer Alley are located on former plantations. Economically, that's because the area's sugar planting economy declined in the mid-20th century. But it's also symbolic, drawing a historical line of oppression directly from slavery to Jim Crow and sharecropping to industrial pollution. With all the studies that Bullard and his co-authors present, it's hard to deny that dirty plants are unfairly distributed in communities of color. Writers of the book's chapter on Cancer Alley and chapters on other examples of environmental racism across the U.S. and beyond also document well the health impacts of pollution: high rates of cancer, asthma, and other diseases. Bullard, known as the father of environmental justice, has been documenting such cases for four decades. He still continues to write and speak about how government regulators and big corporations continue to act as if black and brown people don't have the "complexion for protection" from industrial pollution. Bullard's narrative is encouraging. He asserts that the environmental justice movement has finally become a powerful force to protect communities, and he lists numerous examples of success along with names of organizations, centers for study and laws and regulations that have helped many communities beat back polluters. But "The Quest for Environmental Justice" is also sobering. Fifteen years after its publication, many of the same communities whose victories are celebrated in the book have since had to face new threats from industrial polluters. For example, back in Louisiana, chemical and plastics plants are still being built on Cancer Alley. A new generation of residents tries to beat them off. Sometimes they're successful. And sometimes they're not. The stories of local citizen activists are inspiring. Yet, their war goes on. Against such well funded opponents as multinational dirty energy and chemical corporations -- who continue to be able to buy off state and local officials at far too low a price -- it is hard to see an end to the conflict in sight unless the residents surrender. Let's hope that that will never happen. Or at least let's hope that the communities will hold out until something else changes in this picture. That change will need to come from the outside. That's because it's not communities of color in Louisiana or North Carolina or even Nigeria or South Africa profiled in "The Quest for Environmental Justice" who are creating a huge demand for oil, chemicals and plastics. It's the rest of us. As consumers, we all must cut back. And as citizens, we all must work to create a clean economy where factories no longer create toxic pollution. That's a tall order, but in the 15 years since Bullard's book came out, technology advances make a 100% clean economy much more doable. For years, the mainstream environmental movement was focused on preserving wilderness and paid little or no attention to protecting the environment in areas already impacted by industry. But it's those very industrial areas, argues one of Bullard's authors, that pose the biggest threat to Americans' health. Air and water pollution are mobile, after all, and toxic chemicals don't always stay where they were originally dumped. Fortunately, most of the votes are in cities and towns where people live in large numbers. And that's a cause for hope, if only people who care about the environment can change their mindset. The environment is not something you need to travel to find in Yosemite or on the Appalachian Trail. The environment is the air, water, and land in the neighborhoods where we all live. And people, black, brown, white, and every other color, are also part of the environment. The environmental justice movement should be proud of the progress it's made over the last 40 years and Bullard deserves much of the credit. His book has retained its ability to inspire the rest of us to help this necessary movement to continue to move forward.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nadia Busekrus

    Heartbreaking and necessary for everyone to read!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    Environmental justice is the concept that environmental risks should be borne equitably by society, whereas the harsh reality is that poor people and people of color are disproportionately affected by pollution and environmental degradation. The environmental justice movement arose in response to this inequality and over the past several decades has grown to become a global movement closely involved in debates over globalization, development, climate change and broader discussions of justice in Environmental justice is the concept that environmental risks should be borne equitably by society, whereas the harsh reality is that poor people and people of color are disproportionately affected by pollution and environmental degradation. The environmental justice movement arose in response to this inequality and over the past several decades has grown to become a global movement closely involved in debates over globalization, development, climate change and broader discussions of justice in society. This collection of essays is a retrospective of the movement's past accomplishments and future challenges. Many of the essays focus on various local "David vs. Goliath" struggles -- from New Jersey to South Africa, Los Angeles to Nigeria -- and such tend to have many common characteristics. In particular, a few of the essays here stand out for their analytical clarity: the scientific analysis of pollution siting in Los Angeles by Manuel Pastor and collaborators is excellent, as is David MacDonald's analysis of neoliberalism in post-apartheid South Africa. In all, a very good academic reference for the subject. A little dry in places, especially for a topic that is so clearly ripe for dramatization, but that's sort of an occupational hazard with stuff like this.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    363.7 Q53 2005

  5. 5 out of 5

    sandra

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    Shanique Morris

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    Madeline Friedman

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    Francisco Silva

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

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