Strategies, Methods and Outlook
Edited by Daniel A. Mazmanian and Hilda Blanco
Chapter 12: A measure of justice: environmental equity and the sustainable city
The concept of environmental justice has its origins in both community organizing and academic research. Many date the organizing part of the equation to a set of protests in 1982 by a predominantly low-income and African-American community in Warren County, North Carolina. Seeking to stop plans to build a toxic dump in their region, concerned residents joined forces with the National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the United Church of Christ (UCC) in a protest in which 500 people were arrested – and together, they were able to both block the development of the dump and effectively launch a new social movement (Bullard 1994; Cole and Foster 2000). Research and measurement was an early and important part of this effort. The Warren County protest led the US General Accounting Office to conduct an initial analysis that suggested that there were indeed racial disparities in the location of toxic sites in three southeastern states (US General Accounting Office (GAO) 1983). This prompted the UCC Commission for Racial Justice to conduct the first nationwide study that demonstrated a correlation between hazardous waste facilities and neighborhoods of color called Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States (United Church of Christ 1987). A wave of other studies followed and, by 1994, the idea that disparities in environmental amenities and disamenities might have racial and income dimensions was so accepted that then-President Clinton signed Executive Order #12898 on Environmental Justice.
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