Chapter 3: Dimensions of risk and environmental inequality
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Environmental justice studies scholarship is founded on evidence and claims of unequal exposure to environmental risk. That is, research demonstrates that particular populations (low-income, Indigenous, female, people of color, immigrants, communities of the global south, houseless persons, etc.) are more likely to face a range of environmental risks than other groups as a result of public policies and industry practices that reflect and reinforce ideologies of differential valuation, including racism, nativism, patriarchy, classism, and other systems of power that require and produce hierarchy among humans and between humans and ecosystems. And while most of the literature has focused on various aspects of environmental disadvantage, more recent work has begun to explore the phenomenon of environmental privilege, which some argue is not only the flipside, but also the driving force behind environmental inequality. Another important area of inquiry documents the ways in which military activities produce enormous harms to ecosystems and human health, including disproportionate impacts on some populations. Building on both of these bodies of work, this paper argues that we might productively cast environmental injustice as a form of warfare for three reasons: 1) it involves direct assaults by state and state-supported organizations on entire communities; 2) it results in massive harm to those human communities and ecosystems; 3) it is a practice designed to maintain the health of those populations that are highly valued–people who matter–at the expense of those whose lives matter less because they are differentially valued as such. Virtually every aspect of environmental injustice reflects the logic of warfare in that it reveals how government and corporate sector activities place different populations under conditions of highly uneven risk of exposure to a spectrum of environmental threats, which directly contribute to and reinforce disparate and unjust public and environmental health outcomes and environmental privileges. This framing of environmental injustice contributes to the literature on environmental justice studies by offering an innovative and urgency-inducing way of thinking about the seriousness and long-term impacts of public policy and state-sponsored and institutionalized violence. I conclude with a consideration of future directions in environmental justice scholarship, including new leanings in favor of anarchist political ecologies.

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