USP 515 Session 8 Notes

October 12th and 14th 
Session Eight: The Environmental Justice Movement
In this session we will examine the origins and development of the EJ movement.

Class Discussion

  • We talked a lot about mushrooms
    • Maria Sabina
    • Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia
    • Fantastic Fungi
    • Professor talked about the Stoned Ape Hypothesis
  • Mainstream environmental movement
    • Passed more bills than any other social movement, yet has not achieved its goals
      • Gay movement got gay marriage with fewer successful bills
    • Every decade, the problems get worse
      • Air, water, and land are getting more contaminated every year
    • Mainstream environmental land conservation efforts often lead to ecological chaos and desertification
  • Letter published by conference of top environmental organizations
    • Organizations
      • National Wildlife Fund
      • National resource defense council
      • Ocean Conservatory
      • Rainforest Alliance
      • Audubon Society
      • Green Peace
      • Sierra Club
    • Letter accused these organizations of being environmentally racist
      • Staff is rich, white, and educated
      • Focus is on natural environment instead of cities, rural areas, industries, etc
      • Policy advocacy was not focused on issues affecting BIPOC and urban poor
      • Demands
        • Diversify staff and boards
        • Stop using poor black kids to fundraise only to protect the rainforests of Costa Rica; protect those kids and their environments too.
      •  Only Green Peace responded and accepted the demands.
    • How to respond to malthusian ecofascists like the Sierra Club
      • Talk about the big problems
      • Talk about the small problems
      • Move away from industrial ag
        • Distribute production
      • There is a distinction between ecofascists and those who hold views in common with them.
      • Start with articulating the problem descriptions which we agree on, and use those agreements to advocate for fundamental changes instead of incrementalism and nationalist social-darwinism.


For Session Eight, find a song that focuses on an environmental issue and bring the lyrics to the song to class. Be able to access the song so we can listen to it in class. 

Discussion Questions

  1. According to Bullard, how does institutional racism impact planning and policy?
  2. According to Bullard, which communities and groups face some of the worst devastation in the U.S and why?
  3. What does the term “toxic colonialism” mean and what are some examples of toxic colonialism?
    • Dumping our toxic waste
  4. From your perspective, what questions are central to the environmental justice movement?
  5. What are the five predictions of distribution in which race is found to be an independent factor?


ASSIGNED READING FOR SESSION EIGHT (click on session 8 on left to access reading) 

  1. Anatomy of Environmental Racism and the Environmental Justice Movement –Bullard
    • Companies use tax breaks to source LULUs in sacrifice zones under the guise of creating local jobs, but those jobs generally go to colonists, while the sacrifice zone gets stuck with the toxic externalities.
    • The government dumped nuclear waste on native reservations
    • “the dominant environmental protection model places communities of color at special risk. The dominant paradigm reinforces instead of challenges the stratification of people (race, ethnicity, status, power, etc.), place (central cities, suburbs, rural areas, unincorporated areas, Native American reservations, etc.) and work (i.e., office workers are afforded greater protection than farm workers). The dominant paradigm exists to manage, regulate and distribute risks. As a result, the current system has institutionalized unequal enforcement, traded human health for profit, placed the burden of proof on the “victims” and not the polluting industry, legitimated human exposure to harmful chemicals, pesticides, and hazardous substances, promoted “risky” technologies such as incinerators, exploited the vulnerability of economically and politically disenfranchised communities, subsidized ecological destruction, created an industry around risk assessment, delayed cleanup actions and failed to develop pollution prevention as the overarching and dominant strategy.”
    • Equity is distilled into three broad categories
      • Procedural: the fairness question, the extent that rules, regulations, and selection criteria are applied uniformly and in a nondiscriminatory way.
      • Geographic: equity in space, spatial proximity to hazards.
      • Social Equity: since bipoc communities have born the brunt of LULUs up to this point, they should not share in more LULUs until other communities reach parity with them.
  2. Is there a global environmental justice movement? — Martinez-Alier, Temper, et al.
  3. Everything You Need to Know about the Environmental Justice Movement – Robert Bullard
    • The environmental justice movement has basically redefined what environmentalism is all about. It basically says that the environment is everything: where we live, work, play, go to school, as well as the physical and natural world.
      • And so we can’t separate the physical environment from the cultural environment. We have to talk about making sure that justice is integrated throughout all of the stuff that we do.
    • trying to address all of the inequities that result from human settlement, industrial facility siting and industrial development
    • a lot of the small grassroots groups operate from a bottom up model. They don’t have boards of directors and large budgets and large staffs but they do operate with the idea that everyone has a role and we are all equal in this together.
    • we have to work in our communities and take care of educating and empowering our people
    • we have to educate ourselves and learn about each other. We have to cross those boundaries and go on the other side of the tracks, go to the meetings downtown and learn from each other.
    • in 1991 we had the first national people of color environmental leadership summit and we developed 17 principles of environmental justice.
    • Race is still the potent factor for predicting where Locally Unwanted Land Uses (LULUs) go
      • A lot of people say its class, but race and class are intertwined
    • Environmental justice is not a social program, it’s not affirmative actions, its about justice. and until we get justice in environmental protection, justice in terms of enforcement of regulations, we will not even talk about achieving sustainable development or sustainability issues until we talk about justice.
    • what we’ve seen is a better understanding of the various sides that are there, the various elements, the various components and priorities that are there.
    • In your geography course, in your social studies course, or science course make sure you integrate this into it, and have videos that you can show, but ultimately the best example that you can have is that young people visit these places and see for themselves what nature is.
      • Traditional environmental education is to basically do it by the numbers the way it’s been done for the last 50 years and thats not working. It’s not working for our communities.
    • immigration is not the problem in terms of environmental degradation. If we talk about having no borders and addressing issues of economic justice–we can address lots of the environmental injustices around the world. If we talk about respecting life and respecting people and respecting communities, if we do that we can end a lot of the international friction that results from transboundary waste trades, and imbalances created as a result of NAFTA
    • The year 2050 is supposed to be the magic year when people of color will be in the majority in this country. But at one point in time this country was people of color, it was indigenous people. So when we talk about these issues, we have to put them in the context of the long term.
      • We need to address things within US borders but at the same time we cannot export problems abroad and create problems in areas that we know do not have the capacity to handle garbage and environmental waste and the risky technologies that are being exported and the unsustainable development policies that are being exported abroad, most of it by our government.
      • So I think that environmental justice folks are saying that we are going to have to work across borders and those ties are already there and it is just a matter of making sure that we strengthen those and we expand and keep reaching out.
    • the environmental justice movement over the last ten years has really matured onto developing policies and issue statements and working on issues ranging from housing, transportation, health to economic development, community revitalization, you name it. I think that the mere fact that we have a number of environmental justice centers around the country now that are working with communities–not organizing communities– but working with, in support of and providing technical assistance and training, we’ve been able to do some things that no thought we could do 10-15 years ago and thats really making a difference when we talk about working across disciplines and geographic, racial and economic spectrums, we’re the most powerful and thats when we are the strongest.
  4. Black Panther Party Principles — Collective Liberation
    1. WE WANT FREEDOM. WE WANT POWER TO DETERMINE THE DESTINY OF OUR BLACK AND OPPRESSED COMMUNITIES. We believe that Black and oppressed people will not be free until we are able to determine our destinies in our own communities ourselves, by fully controlling all the institutions which exist in our communities.
    2. WE WANT FULL EMPLOYMENT FOR OUR PEOPLE. We believe that the federal government is responsible and obligated to give every person
      employment or a guaranteed income. We believe that if the American businessmen will not give full employment, then the technology and means of production should be taken from the businessmen and placed in the community so that the people of the community can organize and employ all of its people and give a high standard of living.
    3. WE WANT AN END TO THE ROBBERY BY THE CAPITALISTS OF OUR BLACK AND OPPRESSED COMMUNITIES. We believe that this racist government has robbed us and now we are demanding the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules. Forty acres and two mules were promised 100 years ago as restitution for slave labor and mass murder of Black people. We will accept the payment in currency which will be distributed to our many communities. The American racist has taken part in the slaughter of our fifty million Black people. Therefore, we feel this is a modest demand that we make.
      BEINGS. We believe that if the landlords will not give decent housing to our Black and oppressed communities, then housing and the land should be made into cooperatives so that the people in our communities, with government aid, can build and make decent housing for the people.
    5. WE WANT DECENT EDUCATION FOR OUR PEOPLE THAT EXPOSES THE TRUE NATURE OF THIS DECADENT AMERICAN SOCIETY. WE WANT EDUCATION THAT TEACHES US OUR TRUE HISTORY AND OUR ROLE IN THE PRESENT-DAY SOCIETY. We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of the self. If you do not have knowledge of yourself and your position in the society and in the world, then you will have little chance to know anything else.
    6. WE WANT COMPLETELY FREE HEALTH CARE FOR ALL BLACK AND OPPRESSED PEOPLE. We believe that the government must provide, free of charge, for the people, health facilities which will not only treat our illnesses, most of which have come about as a result of our oppression, but which will also develop preventive medical programs to guarantee our future survival. We believe that mass health education and research programs must be developed to give all Black and oppressed people access to advanced scientific and medical information, so we may provide ourselves with proper medical attention and care.
    7. WE WANT AN IMMEDIATE END TO POLICE BRUTALITY AND MURDER OF BLACK PEOPLE, OTHER PEOPLE OF COLOR, ALL OPPRESSED PEOPLE INSIDE THE UNITED STATES. We believe that the racist and fascist government of the United States uses its domestic enforcement agencies to carry out its program of oppression against black people, other people of color and poor people inside the united States. We believe it is our right, therefore, to defend ourselves against such armed forces and that all Black and oppressed people should be armed for self defense of our homes and communities against these fascist police forces.
    8. WE WANT AN IMMEDIATE END TO ALL WARS OF AGGRESSION. We believe that the various conflicts which exist around the world stem directly from the aggressive desire of the United States ruling circle and government to force its domination upon the oppressed people of the world. We believe that if the United States government or its lackeys do not cease these aggressive wars it is the right of the people to defend themselves by any means necessary against their aggressors.
    9. WE WANT FREEDOM FOR ALL BLACK AND OPPRESSED PEOPLE NOW HELD IN U. S. FEDERAL, STATE, COUNTY, CITY AND MILITARY PRISONS AND JAILS. WE WANT TRIALS BY A JURY OF PEERS FOR All PERSONS CHARGED WITH SO-CALLED CRIMES UNDER THE LAWS OF THIS COUNTRY. We believe that the many Black and poor oppressed people now held in United States prisons and jails have not received fair and impartial trials under a racist and fascist judicial system and should be free from incarceration. We believe in the ultimate elimination of all wretched, inhuman penal institutions, because the masses of men and women imprisoned inside the United States or by the United States military are the victims of oppressive conditions which are the real cause of their imprisonment. We believe that when persons are brought to trial they must be guaranteed, by the United States, juries of their peers, attorneys of their choice and freedom from imprisonment while awaiting trial.
    10. WE WANT LAND, BREAD, HOUSING, EDUCATION, CLOTHING,  JUSTICE, PEACE AND PEOPLE’S COMMUNITY CONTROL OF MODERN TECHNOLOGY. When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
  5. Executive Order 3195-01-P – Federal Actions To Address Environmental Justice In Minority Populations And Low-Income Populations — Federal Register
    • Created an interagency working group across many federal agencies with the department heads.
    • They were responsible for reporting to the working group about how each agency reduces harms to minority groups and how strategies can be implemented across other groups
    • The departments were required to document how their work was impacting minority communities
    • There were no teeth. There was no obligation to actually do anything about the problems or make any progress on them.
  6. 17 Environmental Justice Principles (from 1991 EJ conference)
    1. Environmental Justice affirms the sacredness of Mother Earth, ecological unity and the interdependence of all species, and the right to be free from ecological destruction.
    2. Environmental Justice demands that public policy be based on mutual respect and justice for all peoples, free from any form of discrimination or bias.
    3. Environmental Justice mandates the right to ethical, balanced and responsible uses of land and renewable resources in the interest of a sustainable planet for humans and other living things.
    4. Environmental Justice calls for universal protection from nuclear testing, extraction, production and disposal of toxic/hazardous wastes and poisons and nuclear testing that threaten the fundamental right to clean air, land, water, and food.
    5. Environmental Justice affirms the fundamental right to political, economic, cultural and environmental self determination of all peoples.
    6. Environmental Justice demands the cessation of the production of all toxins, hazardous wastes, and radioactive materials, and that all past and current producers be held strictly accountable to the people for detoxification and the containment at the point of production.
    7. Environmental Justice demands the right to participate as equal partners at every level of decision making, including needs assessment, planning, implementation, enforcement and evaluation.
    8. Environmental Justice affirms the right of all workers to a safe and healthy work environment without being forced to choose between an unsafe livelihood and unemployment. It also affirms the right of those who work at home to be free from environmental hazards.
    9. Environmental Justice protects the right of victims of environmental injustice to receive full compensation and reparations for damages as well as quality health care.
    10. Environmental Justice considers governmental acts of environmental injustice a violation of international law, the Universal Declaration On Human Rights, and the United Nations Convention on Genocide.
    11. Environmental Justice must recognize a special legal and natural relationship of Native Peoples to the U.S. government through treaties, agreements, compacts, and covenants affirming sovereignty and self-determination.
    12. Environmental Justice affirms the need for urban and rural ecological policies to clean up and rebuild our cities and rural areas in balance with nature, honoring the cultural integrity of all our communities, and provided fair access for all to the full range of resources.
    13. Environmental Justice calls for the strict enforcement of principles of informed consent, and a halt to the testing of experimental reproductive and medical procedures and vaccinations on people of color.
    14. Environmental Justice opposes the destructive operations of multi-national corporations.
    15. Environmental Justice opposes military occupation, repression and exploitation of lands, peoples and cultures, and other life forms.
    16. Environmental Justice calls for the education of present and future generations which emphasizes social and environmental issues, based on our experience and an appreciation of our diverse cultural perspectives.
    17. Environmental Justice requires that we, as individuals, make personal and consumer choices to consume as little of Mother Earth’s resources and to produce as little waste as possible; and make the conscious decision to challenge and reprioritize our lifestyles to ensure the health of the natural world for present and future generations.
  7. Green 2.0 Report: Beyond Diversity 



Find an article that focuses on how research is used to talk about a social, environmental, or public health problem. After reading the article, answer each of the questions below and be prepared to discuss this article in class.

  1. What is the main focus of the article?
  2. What are they trying to understand?
  3. What research methods were used?
  4. Where did the data come from? 
  5. How did they analyze the data?
  6. What did they learn from the analysis?
  7. How was the research used by policy makers?
  8. What did you learn about research and measurement from this article and research?