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Environmental justice and equal protection: intent, motivation and cognition in decision-making

Haydn Davies

Keywords: environmental justice; environmental decision-making; environmental rights; equal protection; social justice; Title VI; social cognition theory; system justification theory

Abstract

This article discusses the relationship between equal protection jurisprudence and environmental justice in the United States, particularly in relation to environmental decision-making on the siting of frequently unwelcome environmental amenities such as hazardous waste disposal sites. The article explores the current mismatch between equal protection jurisprudence and recent discoveries in the behavioural sciences about the nature of human decision-making and the origins of racial and economic bias. It discusses the extent to which these discoveries should and could be incorporated into decision-making related to environmental burdens and the changes that will be necessary to make United States jurisprudence in this area compliant with international norms on human rights as far as discrimination and environmental protection are concerned.

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