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Social Justice

principles that should govern basic structure of society
*regulation of legal system, the economy, welfare policy
*theories generally deal with distribution of rights, opportunities and resources among humans
*largely silent about environment until recently



1. radical social movements (e.g. Sea Shepherd Society, Robin Wood, Earth First!)
2. small local groups against specific issues (e.g. NIMBY - Not In My Backyard)
3. broad coalition of groups (e.g. Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition)


Environmental Justice

=> bottom-up social movement rooted in struggles of local communities against unfair distribution of environmental hazards
*people get involved through personal experience and local networks
*proponents view environment as "where we live, work, and play"
=> absence of equivalent large working-class/non-white grassroots group in Europe


Why does EJ movement condemn mainstream environmental organizations?

For focusing on issues of wildlife and natural resource protection and not issues of class, poverty, race and gender


What are the 3 EJ issues?

=> risk (in U.S., hazardous materials disposal sites are more likely to be in or near minority communities)
=> representation (minorities have low representation in decision-making and staff positions within environmental and natural resource agencies and regulatory bodies)
=> cost of participation is high


Afton, Warren County, North Carolina

=> 1st major milestone in national EJ movement
=> in 1982, NC chose a rural, poor, mostly black area for hazardous waste landfill
*6 weeks of marches and non-violent protest, built on Civil Rights movement
*500 people arrested (first-ever arrests associated with landfill siting in U.S.)


1983 General Accounting Office report

finds 75% of hazardous waste disposal sites in 8 southeastern states are in poor and African-American communities


1987 United Church of Christ report "Toxic Waste and Race in the U.S."

1st report to show race is most important factor in determining where toxic waste facilities are sited in the U.S.


Toxic Release Inventory Program

=> part of Environmental Protection & Community Right to Know Act 1986
=> firms with 10+ employees that use 10,000+ lbs. of a listed chemical per year or firms that import, process or manufacture 25,000 lbs. must file report
=> used as a database for many EJ cases


1990 EJ letter

several EJ leaders sent a widely publicized letter to "Big 10" environmental groups (e.g. Sierra Club, Greenpeace, NRDC, EDF, etc.) accusing hem of racial bias in policy development and hiring


Executive Order 12898

=> used under Clinton to avoid going through Congress
=> 1994 "Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations"
*Requires Federal agencies administer and
implement their programs, policies, and acPviPes
that affect human health or the environment so as
to idenPfy and avoid “disproporPonately high and
adverse” effects on minority and low-­‐income


What are the implementation challenges?

=> no uniform approach, depth & breadth of analysis is context-specific
=> meaningful participation of EJ population is essential but challenging


What are the challenges in documenting cases?

=> lack of resources
=> limited statistical power in doing investigations of small communities or rare diseases
=> lack of knowledge about exposure


How does industry pushback against EJ?

=> Persuade minority leaders that economic benefits of industrial facility and the increase in jobs worth any health risks
=> Threatened imminent job loss if communities do not accept hazardous industries and facilities.


South Bronx Greenway

=> local action by NGO Sustainable South Bronx
=> Bring local economic development, local urban heat island mitigation, positive social influences, access to public open space, and aesthetically stimulating environments
=> NYC Department of Design and Construction used it as a smart growth template


Highway Widening in Durham, North Carolina

-> 1‐mile corridor widening project in area with growing Hispanic/Latino population
*Key issue: Potential loss of the Los Primos Supermarket
*Outcome: Public outreach and analysis alternative location identify impacts to vehicle-­less EJ community


Marine Container Terminals, Long Beach, CA

=> Combination and upgrade of two marine container terminals at the Port of Long Beach, CA
*Key issues: Construction noise, cumulative impacts on air quality and health risk
*Outcome: Mitigation grant program for cumulative impacts, broad public support


Interchange Project in Macon, Georgia

=> Pleasant Hill mostly Black/African American
historic community
*Already bisected by I-­75, had declined,
and likely impacted again
*Outcome: Community-­supported Community Mitigation Plan addressed direct and cumulative impacts


What Path to Minimize Damages?

=> National or state environmental justice legislation or regulation?
=> Improve information exchange?
=> Non-­governmental action groups?
=> Buffer zones around noxious land use sites?
*Might lead to false sense of security
*Zoning often controlled at local level
*Ask if there is a need for the facility?


International Toxic Waste Trade

=> UN Basel Convention (1992)
“The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal”
*US signed but did not ratify
=> In response to 1986 Haiti
*Tons of municipal incinerator ash from Philadelphia on Haitian beach dumped by the barge Khian Sea
(prompted Basel Convention)
=> 1988 Koko, Nigeria
*5 ships transported 8,000 barrels of hazardous waste from Italy in exchange for $100 monthly rent for plot of farmland
=> formation of Basel Action Network “to combat global environmental injustice and economic inefficiency of toxic trade"


Trafigura Scandal

=> Dutch multinational commodity trading company (base metals and energy), world’s third largest trader
=> Cote d’Ivoire Dumping
*2006 Probo Koala crew tried to clean up low-­grade oil by adding caustic soda
*Tried to unload in Amsterdam as “harmless slops” (500
tonnes mixed fuel, caustic soda, and hydrogen sulfide) but treatment company wanted higher price for cleaning
*Shipped cargo to Africa (Abidjan, Ivory Coast) for lower cost treatment
*Local contractor dumped in a dozen sites
*Death of 17, injury of ~30,000?
=> Ivory Coast Court finds 2 people, not employees of Trafigura, guilty of dumping toxic waste
=> Trafigura pleads total ignorance...
=> 2007 paid $198m for cleanup without admitting wrongdoing
=> Threatens to sue BBC for libel
=> The Guardian publishes internal emails showing traders knew danger
=> 2009 Trafigura agrees to $50m to victims
=> 2010 Dutch court finds guilty of illegal export of toxic waste


How to apply the precautionary principle?

=> To protect people from the deleterious effects of living near environmental hazards
*Even in the absence of complete scientific proof, enough evidence of potential harm to take steps to rectify the problem
*a social responsibility to protect the public from exposure to harm when all available evidence points to plausible risk.


How could climate change be a new frontier for EJ?

=> Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF)
*British NGO 1999 concerned with environmental security, social justice and human rights
=> New report suggests global warming will force up to 150 million “climate refugees” to move to other countries in the next 40


Paths to Effectiveness: the 3 C's

1. Increase gov't Concern (direct linkage of issues; create, collect, dissemination scientific info, etc.)
2. Enhance Contractual environment (bargaining forums to reduce transaction costs, iterative decision-making process)
3. Build national Capacity (create networks to transfer technical and mgmt expertise, financial assistance, poloicy-relvant info and expertice)