USP 515 Term Paper

USP 515 – Environmental Justice

Term Paper

  1. Summarize what you learned from each and every session in this course. You are required to refer to each session separately and individually with the name of the session on top of each part of your answer.

 

Session 1 “First Peoples and Traditional Territory Introductions”

We started by learning about approaches for discussion in this class. It was basically the same as the other class. There was a lot of metacommentary. We talked about how to talk about the topics. We learned for the first time that the professor preferred students to interject and interrupt, rather than using tools like “raise hands” on zoom. This made me think about which student groups in the class are privileged by this policy and which are marginalized. I had previously taken a class on the topic of the way that professors set expectations in classes which typically favor extroverts and make things harder for introverts. This seemed like a good example of that.

We also learned that the professor would be requiring everyone to attend class synchronously without recordings to refer back to. This led to a similar discussion about spring semester and the anecdote that nearly all the black students had dropped as a result of these and other policies in this class.

We also learned about one another’s expectations for a safe classroom such as “speaking from I,” allowing people to articulate their point before reacting, and as one student put it, “appreciating one another’s valid subjective opinions even when they’re different.” We finished the first day of this session with an open discussion where the professor asked everyone to explain what they think sustainable development is, and then the professor explained that none of us know what sustainable development is. This is when I learned that the tone of the class would be deeply ideological, with all references to the personal beliefs of the professor portrayed as absolute facts from a universal and objective perspective, rather than within the broader dialectical context of the many valid alternatives to each conclusion offered. Given the context of the previous comment about institutionally racist policies in the class, and the disregard for ameliorating the outcome of “all black students dropping,” plus the fact that this comment came just after a discussion about respective subjective experience, I almost dropped the class at this point because I find it difficult to have patience when claims are presented this way. It did lead to many tense moments later on, but I’m glad I stuck around because we ended up learning many interesting things as we will see on future pages.

This session was split into two days. On the second day, we learned about self-care in the context of the urban process, departing from the 514 topics. This motivated me to reflect more deeply on Harvey’s essay about the Urban Process Under Capitalism and the way that taking a social justice class during a pandemic highlights the absence of BIPOC people and the institutional complicity it takes to make most minority students drop all their classes because of what I would later learn is called “unequal protection from harm.”

 

Session 2 “Central Concepts”

During this session, we discussed the terms and concepts that would be central to the course. We learned that the professor would be applying an anthropocentric definition of the term, excluding any discussion of animal welfare, the welfare of the ecosystems, and rather framing issues only from the perspective of environmental costs and benefits to humans. This seems like an ironic position to take in retrospect, based on claims made later about the inherent flaws of all cost-benefit analyses.

Since we were taking an anthropocentric perspective on the topic, I offered several concepts from my social justice degree to the discussion such as systemic oppression, the definition of allyship, and the duty for reparations. I learned that these core concepts of social justice would not feature in the discussion or as part of the central concepts of the course. This motivated me to think more deeply about the overall purpose of the course and whether it was based on a colonized perspective of what justice is and should be, rather than on an honest critical analysis of the lessons, demands, and strategies conferred by those people most impacted.

It was also interesting to learn the claim that environmental justice must necessarily feature redress as a core duty. This motivated me to reflect with some confusion during later units about cost-benefit analyses vs the precautionary principle. This claim from the beginning of the class seems to be yet another contradiction with that later claim. If redress is the core duty, then how are we avoiding any discussion of reparations or the duty of allyship (in the social justice sense) and focusing instead on demanding future actions be taken only after entities prove they will do no further harm? Reflecting further, it does seem that these core claims of the course are in conflict.

We learned the in-class definitions of things like race, class, ethnicity, and poverty which were roughly equivalent to the social justice definitions with the possible exception that race and ethnicity are generally not treated separately under Critical Theory Analyses like they are in this class.

We also learned the in-class definition of the environment which confusingly does include the animals and ecosystem and not just humans. This motivated me to reflect more deeply on what struck me as an odd contradiction at the time; we had heard in the previous session that we would not be hearing or making any moral arguments about the rights of any entities in the environment except homo sapiens. Syntactically, the class is called “environmental justice” and we have just defined the environment to include all animals, and yet we are only talking about the impact to humans and not the duty to protect animals for their own sake. Perhaps the class should be called human justice? Reflecting further now, it does seem like a core conflict in the curriculum of this class.

We then unironically learned that the definition of prejudice in this class would be the belief that some groups are better or more deserving than other groups, and that institutional racism means racism in institutions like education. This motivated me at the time to note that we had already seen examples of both of these in the class.

 

Session 3 “Central Theories”

In the Feagin and Eckberg reading, we learned that most of the social science literature contains the assumption that prejudice causes discrimination, but that the reality is more complex. Discriminatory actions within one institution are frequently related to discrimination in other institutional settings. For example, it would be easy to argue that the low rate of black enrollment in the SFSU USP program makes it easy for professors to ignore the environment they create which excludes those few black students who do enroll. The big takeaway from the article is that there are dimensions of racial discrimination and that each of the permutations should be studied and remedied in a different way.

We also learned in the Bullard article about the strong connection between settler colonialism and the displacement and extermination of native populations around the world. This was the first time we touched on the fact that Costly externalities cause disparate impact for those communities unable to resist being a dumping ground for toxic colonialism. This was also the first link back to the idea of sacrificing long-term interests in favor of short-term interests.

In the Mohai and Bryant article, we learned about evidence that an inverse relationship exists between proximity to whiteness and proximity to environmental harms; white people are protected from harms at the expense of BIPOC.

We also learned from the Democracy Now interview about the timeline and details of the Flint water crisis. I had been aware of the broad strokes but I think this was the first time I really learned the details of the case study. Particularly interesting was learning about the white emergency manager who subverted the democracy of the city and exposed the black residents to harm for the promise of some trivial degree of austerity.

 

Session 4 “Environmental Justice”

In this session, we defined environmental justice as a social movement in relation to environmental movement with a social justice component. I noted at the time being surprised that the topic was not centered around stronger core social justice principles and in particular epistemic and moral frameworks like feminist ethics and animal rights.

It was interesting to learn about the disparity between which nations cause problems and which nations pay the price for problems. In past classes I had studied toxic colonialism, but I had not explicitly studied the way the causes and impacts of climate change mirror the issue of toxic colonialism.

We learned about how capitalism is at the core of what’s wrong, because we have a profit-motivated economic system built on centuries of things like the legacy of slavery, redlining, the Chinese exclusion act, the concentration camps, xenophobic immigration laws, and the prison industrial complex. With such a foundation, how could it be possible to have a just system? This motivated me to reflect more deeply on whether this argument is internally consistent or whether critiquing across an epistemic gap is just pandering without the capacity to affect change. I figured this would be developed further in later modules, which it does seem to have been.

We also touched on the same topic from 514 about post-war America being the only remaining developed industrial power and having lots of big, temporary advantages which were distributed unequally to white people instead of black people. The legacy of this moral failure survives to this day.

This was also the session when we first learned the term LULU: Locally Unwanted Land Use. In the context of this session, we discussed land use policy, the political process, and the way these and other factors comingle to give us infrastructure and justice/injustice outcomes. We also learned about the way that the LULU is the chicken that comes both before and after the egg of the local population. They are sited where minorities live, and then those areas are more affordable drawing more minorities who are exposed to the harms related to the LULUs.

 

Session 5 “The Politics of Pollution”

This was the first real meat and potatoes of the course. We learned in the Davies and Davies reading about the way interdisciplinary scientific study of pollution is not based on science. Instead of being scientific, the standards used to study pollution are political. The standards are arbitrary but presented as scientific fact. At the time, I reflected that this was a missed opportunity in the class. It would have been the perfect moment to point out that we are making moral claims about how people should be protected from harms, not scientific claims about how harms are bad. Good and bad are not scientific terms after all, they are moral terms. We could then couch that perspective within a strongly developed moral framework like feminist ethics or critical theory.

In the Bullard reading, we learned more about the way proximity to whiteness corelates inversely to exposure to harms. Reflecting more deeply now within the context of the previous paragraph, this is an example of a good scientific claim; it is testable, reproducible, and can be used to explain the past while making testable predictions about the future. Again it seems like a missed opportunity to contrast this kind of good scientific claim with bad scientific claims like how much lead exposure is fine. (This is actually a moral claim, since it’s not testable, reproducible, etc.)

We also learned about the story of Alex Nieto with regard to gentrification. I had not heard this story before, being new to the city. White gentrifiers wrongly called the police on a person of color who had grown up in what was now a colonized neighborhood. He had been eating a burrito on a break from work, and the police showed up and murdered him for no reason. This story has played out across the city and across the country countless times for centuries, but this local example is particularly germane for those of us who exist in the spaces where this example took place.

 

Session 6 “Unequal Protection from Harm”

We started by learning about a wild memo that was written by Chief Economist of the World Bank, Lawrence Summers in 1991. In it, he argues that developing countries are “under-polluted” because shorter lifespans there means it’s more likely that people will die of other causes before dying of pollution, thus reducing the cost to polluters from lawsuits and other barriers to pollution. He also argued that only rich people care about pollution, so it makes sense to produce our pollution where there are mostly poor people. There was nothing particularly surprising about this since it’s basically been the state of the world since the industrial revolution started, but it was the first time I had seen it worded so concisely and unironically.

We then learned that Brazil’s then secretary of the environment Jose Lutzenburger responded, “Your reasoning is perfectly logical but totally insane… Your thoughts [provide] a concrete example of the unbelievable alienation, reductionist thinking, social ruthlessness and the arrogant ignorance of many conventional ‘economists’ concerning the nature of the world we live in…. If the World Bank keeps you as vice president it will lose all credibility.” Ironically, this sound moral response to an absurd moral claim by Summers earned Secretary Lutzenburger a termination because we live under the fascistic hegemony of capitalism which works hard to silence any moral critique.

We then read David Harvey’s piece, The Environment of Justice. Harvey talks about both the statements from both Summers and Lutzenburger before connecting to several recent session topics. For example, Harvey points out that the presence of minorities is the strongest indicator of LULU siting, and points to the fact that endorsing toxic colonialism is antithetical to any notion of justice and progress. I noted that the text seemed to be cut off suddenly mid-piece, and we discussed in class that this had been intentional.

We also learned about a religious organization which published a list of examples of forms of pollution and related health conditions. They also listed many significant events in the history of the environmental justice movement. All of this was tied back to religion in what seemed like an attempt to frame the issue of environmental justice as an eschatological argument. This motivated me to reflect more deeply on the fact that this example deviated from the class’ norm of making objective scientific claims about what are actually moral issues rather than scientific issues as I’ve mentioned several times. Eschatology seems sort of adjacent to morality since it evolved to fill that niche in religion. I actually appreciate this framing of claims within a clear epistemological framework. I may personally reject religion, but at least this argument is logically consistent.

We touched briefly on spatial issues, and learned that a person’s zip code is the most important indicator of success in life because privileged and oppressed groups are sorted into regions where they are either protected from or exposed to harms. We learned that for research purposes relating to environmental justice, zip codes are treated as essentially interchangeable with factors like race, class, and other demographic characteristics of populations.

 

Session 7 “Health Justice: Case Study of Covid 19”

            It was interesting to have this similar unit from the other class but with an EJ twist. We learned about the impact of covid on undocumented immigrants specifically. We learned that while covid has exposed huge disparities across the board, few examples are as shocking and problematic as the impact on undocumented immigrants. We also learned about the racist exclusion of undocumented immigrants from the Affordable Care Act, and the way that Obama’s own signature healthcare package failed to achieve parity for immigrants.

We also learned that the stimulus and relief efforts in response to covid deliberately exclude these immigrants who are already most at risk not just of poor health outcomes but also poor economic outcomes as countless jobs disappear overnight.

We also touched briefly on the Black New Deal. Again, I have to say I feel like this was a huge missed opportunity. Something like this would be a perfect overall framework for the class; it is full of a long and comprehensive list of specific claims based on outreach to those who are actually in the populations we’re talking about and paired with specific solutions to the problems they bring up. It’s an excellent document which deserves at a minimum its own unit. The fact that in an environmental justice class, the only place for the Black New Deal is as a footnote on a session about covid just does not make sense. At a minimum it should have its own session. Ethically, each section of the BDN should have its own session.

In prisons in particular, we learned that the impacts of covid are widespread and dramatic. Inmates in California have about triple the risk as the average person. In New Jersey, this gap jumps to over seven times. Death rates are also extremely high with half-again the deaths in New Jersey prisons versus the overall population.

We touched very briefly in this session on sacrifice zones which seems like another huge missed opportunity. We learned about the fact that LULUs are often clustered together in formerly minority neighborhoods which essentially become uninhabitable toxic areas called sacrifice zones. This led me to reflect more deeply on the way many of my past environmental justice classes have framed this and other topics the other way around; instead of talking very dryly about correlations between minority racial prevalence and LULU citing, they tended to talk about the way capitalism creates sacrifice zones, converting whatever minority neighborhoods are not bulldozed and gentrified into toxic waste sites, leaving nowhere for minorities to go. This kind of claim is moral rather than scientific, highlighting disparate impact with a call to action for progress towards justice rather than merely citing a statistic and moving on.

 

Session 8 “The Environmental Justice Movement”

In this class we learned a lot about psychedelic drugs including the stoned ape hypothesis. The connection being the fact that any amount of time spent in nature reflecting on the complex ecology around us makes us feel some obligation of stewardship towards the land. It’s a perspective that seems to make its own arguments to those who agree, and to create a gulf between these stewards and those who voluntarily salt and burn the land with no apparent regard for the future.

This was the first time we learned about the open letter published by the conference of top environmental justice organizations accusing the large environmental organizations of being environmentally racist and ineffective in their mission. For example, the letter highlights that the staffs of these organizations are rich white people who focus only on wilderness areas while ignoring the impacts to the environment of the urban landscape. The letter went on to point out that the policy advocacy of these organizations was never focused on BIPOC issues and the urban poor. The letter finished with demands that these organizations diversify their staff and boards and stop tokenizing black children to fundraise for rainforests if they are not actually going to help those black children and work on the environment where those children live.

We also learned about the professor’s perspective on how to discuss these issues with Malthusian ecofascists. The professor advised that we should talk about big problems first, then talk about small problems, before advocating for specific things we agree about like moving away from industrial agriculture. The professor also recommended that we make a distinction between avowed ecofascists and those who merely share all their views, because there is some chance that for people who merely hold ecofascist views there is some potential to change those views if we argue correctly. If we start with articulating the problem descriptions which we agree on, we can use those agreements to advocate for fundamental changes instead of incrementalism.

 

Session 9 “Research and Measurement Issues”

This was the session when we learned about measuring disparities using biomarkers.  We learned about biomarkers of exposure, biomarkers of effect, and biomarkers of susceptibility. Each of these can be measured separately and correlated with demographic data to make real scientific claims about the disparate impact of environmental injustice. For example, if we compare exposure to lead based on race, we are likely to see white people with lower lead levels than black people.

One critical area in research which we learned about is culturally equivalent measures and cultural bias. It’s important that research is conducted without the assumption that subjects who have different cultural perspectives will see their biomarkers measured the same way because of the potential for confounding variables, different sets of connotations, and other cultural factors which need to be controlled for in this kind of research.

Next we learned about the differences between community and institutional research. Most of the really interesting examples in the history of the environmental justice movement are when institutions which ostensibly exist to do this kind of research instead fail to serve the community. Institutional research is often deeply political and based on motivated reasoning rather than objective scientific review of the evidence. It takes work as we saw in the last paragraph to conduct good research on diverse populations. It also takes work to ignore the evidence of problems in those communities. Examples we’ve learned about include the changing of the “official” levels at which lead contamination is dangerous rather than admitting there is a problem. This is where community research comes in. In examples like Love Canal and Flint, the community worked together to demonstrate the problem. The community did this because the institutions which ostensibly existed to research and prevent exactly these kinds of problems were complicit in actively hiding the very problems they existed in order to prevent.

 

Session 10 “Climate Justice”

We started by learning about the climate gap. Communities of color contribute less to the climate problems we face as a global society. Despite that, they face more of the impacts. For example, they suffer more during heat waves without access to life saving climate control. They suffer dirtier air which exacerbates the risks of covid, asthma, and other respiratory problems. They face higher prices for basic necessities. They also have fewer prospects for jobs and economic growth and advancement.

The report we read for the class contains several recommendations. We learned that it makes sense to site new LULUs in communities which don’t already have LULUs, privileged communities in order to share the burden of pollution with rich white people who are currently not sharing in the risks and side effects of these sites.

In the case study on Malawi, we got the first statistics about the gap between impacts felt by rich white countries versus poor BIPOC countries. This gap is 200-300x according to the reading. The nation of Malawi is working hard on increasing resiliency to storms, droughts, floods, agricultural externalities, and other problems. Despite this work, they are still subject the side effects of countries like the US where instead of mitigating these outcomes, the outcomes are simply shifted onto countries like Malawi.

Next, they give a list of ways that rich countries can help Malawi survive what we have exposed them to. Specifically, they want help with solving hunger, poverty, and flooding. This led me to reflect on whether that seems likely to happen, since the US refuses to even admit that this reality exists. I am reminded of the words of Winston Churchill, “Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing, but only once they have tried everything else.”

Lastly, one of the readings covers five ways to make the climate movement less white. It was very interesting and useful to learn about this list of specific actionable steps. First, we need to build intergenerational power for BIPOC people, and this is something we already see happening today, particularly in the context of the BND proposal. Second we need to require white organizers to acknowledge and confront their internalized white supremacy. I see this more and more in direct action organizations where I volunteer, but it needs to grow and be further normalized in society. This made me reflect more deeply on the finding from the economist that the most strongly correlated factor that predicts how someone voted in the recent election is whether or not they admit that systemic racism exists. Next, we need to acknowledge, converse with, and understand those activists who don’t look like the cookie cutter activist. This is critical and connects back to many of the points we’ve covered in the class so far from the value of culturally competent community research to the fact that outreach is the only way to form solutions which actually represent what is needed by those who are actually a part of the communities being affected. Lastly, we need to provide accessible environmental education that comes from nonacademic ways of learning, and this really ties them all together, because if we’ve doing to acknowledge the history and practices that created the problems we’re trying to solve while also including and centering those who are most affected, then we have to acknowledge the fact that our institutions are complicit and responsible for the problems we’re trying to solve. Therefore, those same institutions are not the solution to the problem which they themselves helped to create.

 

Session 11 “Transportation Justice: Case Study of Curitiba, Brazil”

This was covered in the other class. It was very interesting to learn about the Curitiba BRT system in the YouTube video we watched. I had always heard BRT described as a half-measure that rich people would not adopt. It was interesting to see a whole city built on BRT and with such high ridership. This caused me to reflect on whether what I’ve heard about BRT was potentially inaccurate or incomplete. The idea of doing elevated platforms with people paying before they get on seems particularly helpful for the speed of the system. It will be interesting to see how BRT works out for the new East Bay BRT line.

The line that stuck with me most from the Curitiba case study was “Adding population without adding infrastructure and planning to support the additional population will result in a lower quality of life and an increase in social problems in the city.” This seems to be close to where we are at today in America. The idea that we are already in such a housing crisis plus we are adding another 70 million people in the next few decades presents similar sorts of challenges to what this quote is talking about. We will either make changes now or we will make them later, but the way things are just isn’t going to keep working.

One thing that raised my eyebrows in this case study was in “Bogota: Building a Sustainable City”(3:15-5:20) when Penolosa seemed to argue for broken windows theory; that people will decide what kind of life to have based on their surroundings, and so eliminating the negative cues about the kind of neighborhoods you have will cause people to choose to live in a better way. He said this gave people more self esteem which solved urban social problems. This idea is directly responsible for a huge number of social problems in America. I have repeatedly reflected deeply on this segment of the video since we watched it. I think it would take a great deal of research to reconcile these arguments, and I may do that at some future point.

We also learned about the problem of connecting centers rather than connecting people to where they need to go. This problem seems like one of the most challenging unresolved issues in urban design; how can you build infrastructure for the future when the future is in flux? The example of the Chicago trains radiating like wheels on a spoke was very interesting. When the system was built, it made sense, but today most people are commuting from one suburb to another and there is effectively no simple and fast transit option for them using the existing infrastructure.

 

Session 12 “Civil Rights”

This was a pretty straightforward session. We learned about the history of voter suppression and disenfranchisement in America, particularly the legacy of poll taxes, gerrymandering, felon disenfranchisement within the context of a racist police state with a deeply corrupt and for-profit school-to-prison pipeline.

This led to a discussion of the prison abolition movement and the call to defund the police. We learned that many of our cities are spending more on their police forces than nations spend on their militaries, again all as part of a corrupt for-profit scheme to commodify minorities into a product to be unjustly incarcerated.

There is much cause for hope. We learned in the “Restoring Voting Rights for Felons” reading that an amendment in Florida recently restored the rights of millions of formerly incarcerated people to vote, with similar bills being worked on around the country as a response to the BLM movement.

 

Session 13 “Addressing Environmental Injustices/Cost Benefit Analysis/Precautionary Principle”

This was covered in the other class. We learned about two alternate approaches to evaluating the relative good and bad between different options in urban planning: cost benefit analyses versus the precautionary principle.

In the first reading, Pricing the Priceless, we learned about the principle of cost benefit analysis analyzed through the perspective of a moral argument about society. The claim of the paper was that a cost benefit analysis offers a deeply flawed method which biases economic value above all other concerns. Within this framework, there is no way to argue for social most justice issues and environmental issues, because there is no clear, direct economic measure to compare with these kinds of concerns. On the other hand, some social justice and environmental issues can be addressed under this framework. If we have a long-term financial incentive not to destroy the biosphere, then there is a rational cost-benefit reason not to do that. If it’s cheaper to give homeless people housing, then there is a rational cost-benefit reason to do that.

In the second reading, The Precautionary Principle Puts Value First, we learned about the precautionary principle which argues that rather than basing decisions on economic interests, we should require evidence for a lack of potential harm from those entities who wish to undertake any action in society. It argues that instead of just being a profitable endeavor, products and enterprises should have to demonstrate proof that they will not harm people in the process of what they want to do.

The way this dichotomy was presented led me to reflect on whether this is a true dichotomy or perhaps rather a case of people with different epistemologies talking past each other. Both of these concepts are based on different ideas about how to decide what’s true and right, and both of these concepts have problems. The cost-benefit analysis is often the only possible language which our institutions and businesses can legally interact with. Maybe that should change, but it’s not clear that the precautionary principle is up to the task, based on the readings.

It’s not possible to prove a negative. The idea that every entity should be required to prove it will not cause harm before taking any action would not only be logically impossible but also essentially outlaw all harms. Certainly there are egregious harms from some entities which should be addressed, but a certain amount of risk is part of life. If I want to open a café, how can I possibly prove that I will harm no one? What degree of risk is acceptable? Should we institute a worldwide ban all products containing peanuts because of the risk to someone with an unknown allergy? Under the precautionary principle as stated in this class, yes we should.

This session poses a false dichotomy where neither option works all the time. The missing attempt at reconciling these ideas leaves any underlying truth uninterrogated and demonstrates only that neither of these options works in all situations, while only one of them can even approach those with the power to actually make decisions on these topics. Towards the end of the session, the professor said we “should be thinking conceptually rather than theoretically or practically.” Indeed, that’s the only way I can rationalize the argument made by session is by starting with the assumption that’s right and not thinking too deeply about it.

 

  1. What have you learned in this course about the concept of “environmental justice”?

I think the biggest change for my own knowledge after already having a degree in social justice and taking many other environmental justice classes before has been framing that knowledge within the context that there is still a lack of consensus about how to define and accomplish the goals of environmental justice. It has been interesting to read so many articles and essays from central bankers, professors of related fields, and other sources.

In the past my own perspective has been much more focused on and aligned with what the people in marginalized communities are saying about what they are experiencing and what they need me to do about it. I have always been somewhat averse to the sociological perspective which often overlaps with the neoliberal perspective; form a nonprofit and board of directors to lobby institutions for reform. I was glad to see this class touch on that and reject it, favoring the community perspective over the institutional perspective.

In short, there are many versions of what environmental justice is, and this class reinforced my own perspective that the version I want to be a part of is the one that listens to those most impacted, measures things like biomarkers, shares the knowledge and takes concrete steps to demand change. I really related to the session when we learned about the way a group of activists called out the leading environmental institutions as being a part of the problem and that’s really the kind of environmental justice that I want to be a part of.

 

  1. What are your five main takeaways from this course?

It seems like a lot of the claims and points made in both classes include people talking past each other and equivocating on many of the terms being used. The first thing I take away is the failure to distinguish moral arguments from ontological claims. It’s one thing to make a claim about reality, for example black families have 1/10th the wealth of white families on average. It’s another thing to try articulating a “scientific” claim that we should do something about this. That just isn’t a scientific claim, it’s a moral claim. And the problem I see is conflating the way we talk about these different types of claims. A have noted numerous examples in the previous pages where acknowledging that the claims being made are actually moral claims would make them clearer and enable us to use the tools of ethics and logic to examine and compare conflicting ideas which are in my opinion incorrectly presented as equivalent and dichotomous. This is a common failure of academic discourse particularly on interdisciplinary topics where it is much harder to broad some of these topics without committing equivocation fallacies.

Unequal protection from harm is another key takeaway for me. In my Sociology and Social Justice degree programs, there was a huge focus on measuring disparate impact and the first stage of Kingdon’s model for solving social problems, but this was always from the perspective of harm, not protection. It is interesting and new for me to reflect on harms as a byproduct of society with their impact being unevenly distributed specifically because some groups and being protected while others are not. This also opens the door to epistemic questions about the argument being made for these protections, and why they do not apply to everyone. It’s a novel perspective which I’ve picked up as a result of this class.

Sacrifice zones and toxic colonialism both seem like a missed opportunity as I mentioned before. We talk a lot about the way we colonize the developing world and dump our trash and toxins there, but it’s very interesting to reflect on the way this also happens domestically with LULU siting in our own communities. The same arguments against dumping our toxins in Nigeria can be applied to minority communities in California. This opens a whole can of worms. It would be very interesting to explore the way America has turned many of its own communities into sacrifice zones not at all unlike those far-away lands outside the circle of sentiments where we’re used to thinking of the sacrifice zones as being.

Voting rights never really seemed like an environmental justice issue with the definitions I had before this class. I like the way this class frames the environment to include causes and effects of the problems and centers the discussion where people actually are, the urban landscape. It’s easy to see now how disenfranchising minorities is both a natural side effect of injustice and also a potential avenue for progress through efforts to enfranchise those who have been pushed out.

 

  1. How has this class impacted you professionally?

As I mentioned in the other class, I left my previous career in Software Engineering with a degree in Computer Science. My primary academic goal is to get and MBA and then start working on a PhD in Strategy. I decided I wanted to get a broad undergraduate background in social sciences on the way to my primary goal, as a way to develop a strong understanding of social problems and the way they relate to different communities in cities. In three years on a triple full time workload, I got six associate degrees in Sociology, Social Justice, Women’s Studies, Behavioral Science, Arts and Cultures, and LGBT Studies and Queer Studies. I always knew I wanted to study Urban Planning for my Bachelor, but the reason I came to San Francisco to study the topic of what’s wrong with cities is because there is nowhere in the world where problems with housing, transportation, wages, equity gaps, and institutional racism are worse. This city is the capital of doing things the wrong way, so it’s naturally the perfect place to study these social problems in depth. I’m also doing three minors along with my Bachelor: Race and Resistance Studies, Queer Ethnic Studies, and Philosophy. The purpose of all of these is to tie together a strong understanding of the way that social problems effect many different types of communities in cities.

Also again, my ultimate professional goal is to develop nonprofit solutions to social problems in cities. I’m planning to start working specifically on housing and then eventually on food as well. This class has impacted my professional development by providing many important connections between the topics I chose for my many other degrees as background for understanding the state of these communities and the problems they face. Importantly, these are a mostly different set of connections from the other class. For example, unequal protection from harm is a radically different perspective on social justice from my past experience. Rather than viewing impacts as impacts, we can view impacts as a side effect and view the way they are distributed and who is protected from them as what’s most interesting to study. This again means that all those places where people are being protected from harm have already made the arguments and passed the laws and built the institutions to do that. These successes merely need to be replicated for those who are not currently protected, ideally at the federal level so that everyone is protected in the way only rich white communities are today.

 

  1. How has this class impacted you personally?

As I mentioned in the other class, I think the biggest benefit personally has been the strong cohort that has formed to support each other though the many overlapping disasters we are all enjoying this year. Having a team of motivated people to rely on and collaborate with has made this year a lot easier.

Also again my frustration with the lack of focus on things like the BND which exists in this class only as a footnote to the covid session has led me to try to elevate that particular document in my own research, discussions, and efforts outside this class.

My feeling that ethical and scientific claims are not sufficiently differentiated between has also led me to explore creating a podcast on the topic of learning about different epistemologies. It’s easy to picture two people with very different ideas yelling at each other while both of them feel like their own argument is 100% correct while that of the opponent is 0% correct. We live in an age when shouting is easy but understanding others on such a level that we can actually motivate them to change their minds is very hard. This art is absent from much of today’s discourse, and my frustration with it in this class has motivated me to explore it for myself and potentially to try to help others do the same.

 

  1. What was your experience taking USP 530 classes on Zoom?

I hate zoom. I hate that it is not accessible to so many people. I hate that it reinforces structural racism by excluding so many marginalized students, and also I don’t see any alternative. This year has been a nightmare and no part of it was ideal. I hope that it spurs someone somewhere to invent a better option, and I hope most of all that SFSU finds a way to offer online options to students who don’t feel able to follow the president’s demand that we start looking for jobs and apartments “starting now” in spite of the stay at home order.

USP 515 Session 13 Notes

November 16th and 18th
Session Thirteen:  Addressing Environmental Injustices/Cost Benefit Analysis/Precautionary Principle

ASSIGNED READING FOR SESSION THIRTEEN (click on session 13 on left to access reading) 

 

  1. Pricing the Priceless (this is a legal article so you may have to review it several times

    • Cost-benefit analysis is a deeply flawed method that repeatedly leads to biased and misleading results
      • offers no clear advantages in making regulatory policy decisions and often produces inferior results, in terms of both environmental protection and overall social welfare, compared to other approaches
    • Proponents of cost-benefit analysis make two basic arguments in its favor.
      • First, use of cost-benefit analysis ostensibly leads to more “efficient” allocation of society’s resources by better identifying which potential regulatory actions are worth undertaking and in what fashion
      • Second, the use of discounting systematically and improperly downgrades the importance of environmental regulation.
      • Third, cost-benefit analysis ignores the question of who suffers as a result of environmental problems and, therefore, threatens to reinforce existing patterns of economic and social inequality.
      • Finally, cost-benefit analysis fails to produce the greater objectivity and transparency promised by its proponents
    • While economists have spent three decades wrangling about how much a human life, or a bald eagle, or a beautiful stretch of river, is worth in dollars, ecologists, engineers, and other specialists have gone about the business of saving lives and eagles and rivers, without waiting for formal, quantitative analysis proving that saving these things is worthwhile.
  2. The Precautionary Principle Puts Value First, Nancy Meyer
    • Professor definition: if the producer is not able to prove that no one will be harmed occurs in the process of their activity, then they may not proceed.
    • potential harm, scientific uncertainty, and precautionary action
    • The Wingspread Statement went on to define three additional components of the principle’s application: In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof. The process of applying the Precautionary Principle must be open, informed, and democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action

 

NO HOMEWORK

USP 515 Session 12 Notes

November 9th
Session Twelve: Civil Rights

Part One of this session will focus on how voting rights restoration schemes deny the right to vote to those who cannot afford to pay legal debt. Part Two will focus on Prison Abolition.

 

ASSIGNED READING FOR SESSION TWELVE
Part One: Voting Rights/Disenfranchisement

  1. Can’t Pay/Can’t Vote 
    • Poll taxes, or taxes imposed on otherwise eligible voters as a condition of voting, were abolished across the country during the 1960s, with the ratification of the Twenty‑Fourth Amendment and the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Harper v. Virginia State Board of Education that wealth is not germane to voting
    • felony disenfranchisement statutes, mass incarceration, and the monetization of the carceral state have combined to create a modern-day equivalent to the poll tax—one that is imposed only on those individuals caught up in the criminal justice system
    • Nearly six million individuals are denied the right to vote in the United States due to a past conviction, and, for many of those individuals, the ability to vote is contingent upon their ability to pay an increasing number of fines, fees, court costs, and restitution
    • The surest way to eliminate the impact of wealth on access to the ballot for people with convictions is to abolish felony disenfranchisement.
    • Absent abolition, the most effective way to ensure that inability to pay does not preclude ability to vote is to restore voting rights automatically upon release from incarceration.
  2. Restoring Voting Rights for Felons: Case Study of Florida
    • Amendment 4 was approved by 65 percent of Florida voters and “automatically” restores voting rights for convicted felons if they have completed their sentences, fulfilled probation requirements and paid any restitution and court costs. The amendment excludes murders and felony sex offenders but is expected to enfranchise 1.4 million people
  3. Depriving “Felons” of their Right to Vote
    • A group of voting rights advocates and felons has filed a lawsuit after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis approved a law that could make it more difficult for felons to vote.
    • The amendment approved by voters said that “voting rights shall be restored upon completion of all terms of sentence including parole or probation.” It excludes those who have been convicted of murder or felony sexual offense.

 

ASSIGNED READING FOR SESSION ELEVEN
Part One: Prison Abolition

Also recommended readings by Mariame Kaba

 

Videos

USP 515 Section 11 Notes

November 2nd and 4th
Session Eleven: 
Transportation Justice: Case Study of Curitiba, Brazil 

This session will focus on inequities and injustices in the transportation sector. We will be guided by the following questions:

  1. What are the adverse social consequences of transportation injustice?
  2. What policies can be introduced and supported to promote transportation equity and justice?

 

ASSIGNED READINGS FOR SESSION TEn

  1. Rabinovitch, UNDP,sustainable transportation planning in Brazil – working paper #19, 1995 
    • Curitiba was established in the 17th century
    • During the second half of the twentieth century, the population exploded
    • New master plan created in 1964
      • decongestion of the central area
      • preservation of the historic center
      • demographic management
      • economic support to urban development
      • infrastructure improvement
      • changing the radial urban growth to a linear urban growth
    • Objectives
      • Encourage economic development by reducing the cost of mobility, trade, and exchange within the city
      • Reduce the indirect costs of other infrastructure improvements such as water, sewage, electricity, and communications
      • Assist in preserving historic buildings and areas within the city center
    • Land use legislation
      • Structural sectors: divide the city into five main linear growth structures
      • Ban new commercial buildings in the city center and incentivize housing development
      • Ban cars, parking, and supermarkets in congested areas
      • Ban high rise construction above five stories
      • Ban banks and other financial institutions from the ground floors.
      • preserve historical buildings
      • Designate “connecting roads” off the five axes and incentivize transit oriented development, green spaces, and infrastructure installation
      • Designate “collecting roads” off the “connecting roads” off the five “linear growth structures”
      • Preserve river basins and design for flood protection
        • Ban industrial construction in these areas
      • Enforcement
        • Regulatory and planning tools
        • Economic incentives
        • Physical instruments (ie bike paths)
        • Informational tools
      • Impact of land use/ transportation system
        • Environmental and quality of life impacts
        • Housing densities and land use
        • Public transit
        • Pedestrian areas
        • Traffic and circulation
        • Overall impacts of the land use and transport system
  2. how radical ideas turned Curitiba into Brazil’s ‘green capital’
    • Brasilia was redesigned as a bird in flight with radial corridors of transit wings, and administrative offices in the brain.
    • Curitiba decided instead to protect historic buildings while adding transit in a way that helped the city improve without fundamentally changing
    • To get around opposition to bans on cars by incumbent institutions including commercial shops in the area, Curitiba completed projects very rapidly, permanently blocking streets overnight in order to prevent petitions and injunctions by the business owners.
    • “Democracy is not consensus. Democracy is a conflict that is well managed.”
  3. Shifting people out of cars Curitiba, Brazil’s transport and zoning policies
    • Curitiba invents brt
    • Brt spreads around the world
    • Master plan integrates urban planning with transit
    • Good quality mass transit system
      • Extensive network of routes
      • A single unified fare system
      • Quality infrastructure
        • Busses
        • Stops
      • Support for social welfare systems
    • Today about 85% of the Curitiba population uses the bus system
    • Curitiba’s BRT is financially self-sufficient, requiring no government funding
    • Leadership has always had a clear vision
    • Initial financial support was enough to establish a self-sufficient system
    • Mixed public/private roles with clear division of responsibilities
    • Quality assurance is done by the government

 

Other Notes

  • Abolition is the system of the act of abolishing a system or an institution
  • Police abolition
    • Who gets to define deviance
    • Who gets to define crime
    • Who gets to decide punishments
  • Abolition is a vision of what we are for rather than what we are against
  • The central roles of policing are
    • Surveil
    • Frighten/ Intimidate/ Terrorize
    • Deter
    • Capture
    • Harm/ Kill
  • The cure for social problems is social programs
  • The cause of crime is poverty
  • How would we respond to deviance
  • Abolition movement in America dates back to before the civil war
    • Slave catchers
    • Sheriffs/ convict lease
  • 92% of the people incarcerated have never been convicted of a crime
    • Plea bargain: admitted to a crime in exchange for some lesser sentence.

USP 515 Session 10 Notes

October 26th and 28th
Session Ten: Climate Justice 

We will focus on the questions below:  

  1. What do we mean by the term “climate gap”?
    • The climate gap means that communities of color and the poor will suffer more during extreme heat waves.
    • The climate gap means that communities of color and the poor will breathe even dirtier air
    • The climate gap means that communities of color and the poor will pay more for basic necessities
    • The climate gap is likely to mean fewer job opportunities for communities of color and the poor.
  2. What are the key ideas in the Climate Gap Report?
    • There is a climate gap
      • Definitions and examples given above
    • Recommendations given below
  3. What are the key findings in the Climate Gap Report?
    • Extreme Heat Leads to Increased Illnesses and Deaths—Particularly Among the Elderly, Infants and African Americans
    • Risk Factors for Heat-Related Illness and Death Are Higher for Low-Income Neighborhoods and People of Color
    • African Americans in Los Angeles Nearly Twice as Likely to Die from a Heat Wave
    • Agricultural and Construction Workers also at Increased Risk of Death
    • Air Conditioning a Critical Coping Tool for Heat-Waves—but Not Everyone Has Access
    • Transportation Is also a Critical Coping Tool During a Heat Wave—but African Americans, Latinos and Asians Less Likely to have Access to a Car
    • a recent study found that for each 1 degree Celsius (1°C) rise in temperature in the United States, there are an estimated 20–30 excess cancer cases, as well as approximately 1000 (CI: 350–1800) excess air-pollution-associated deaths (Jacobson 2008). About 40 percent of the additional deaths may be due to ozone and the rest to particulate matter annually (Jacobson 2008; Bailey et al. 2008).
    • Prices for Basic Necessities Expected to Skyrocket as a Result of Climate Change
    • Low-Income Families Already Spend a Bigger Proportion of Their Income on Food, Energy and Other Household Needs Than Higher-Income Families. With Climate Change, That Spending Gap Will Grow.
    • Climate Change Will Dramatically Reduce Job Opportunities or Cause Major Employment Shifts in Sectors that Predominately Employ Low-Income People of Color.
    • Fewer Jobs in Tourism, an Industry Employing a High Number of Low-Income People of Color
  4. What are the key recommendations in the Climate Gap Report?
    • Maximizing Reductions in Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Toxic Air Pollution in Neighborhoods with the Dirtiest Air.
    • Ensuring New Fuels Don’t Increase Pollution in Low-Income and Minority Communities
    • Close the Health Impacts Gap Between People of Color and the Poor, and the Rest of the Population.
      • Focus Planning and Intervention in Poor and Minority Neighborhoods.
      • Use New Mapping Technologies to Identify Vulnerable Neighborhoods
      • Research the Potential Benefits and Harms of New Fuels
      • Measure the Success of Mitigation Strategies by Whether They Protect Everyone
      • Design Research That Identifies Opportunities for Targeting Greenhouse Gas Reductions to Reduce Toxic Air Emissions in Highly Polluted Neighborhoods
    • Class Discussion
      • Close the climate gap by auctioning permits or establishing a fee and invest revenue in communities that will be hardest hit
      • Close the climate gap by coordinating reductions in greenhouse gas emissions with opportunities to reduce toxic pollutants in neighborhoods with the dirtiest air
      • Close the climate gap by adopting policies that will lessen the climate related health impacts faced by people of color and the poor
      • Close the climate gap by closing the conversation gap
  5. What can we learn from a case study of Malawi? (Sovacool’s article)
    • as a result of historical greenhouse gas emissions, people in rich countries impose 200–300 times more climate-related health damage on others than they experience themselves
    • Malawi, arguably “the most climate vulnerable mainland country in Africa” with a history of flooding, drought, land degradation, poverty and food insecurity. Barrett essentially maintains that rich nations should help a country like Malawi adapt to the impacts of climate change, but he takes the issue further to ask: which adaptation mechanisms, funded by international donors but implemented by community groups and stakeholders, would work the best?
      • no single adaptation measure will be sufficient to bolster Malawi’s adaptive capacity and resilience. Instead, much like the nature of the climate change threat, the country will need a suite of measures that cut across sectors. These include enhanced irrigation, drought cropping, flood protection, early warning systems, tree planting, conservation farming and fertilizer distribution. Also, specific cost–benefit ratios for individual adaptation instruments will change on the basis of their location as well as their timing
    • rich nations should help a country like Malawi adapt to the impacts of climate change, but he takes the issue further to ask: which adaptation mechanisms, funded by international donors but implemented by community groups and stakeholders, would work the best?
      1. villagers identified hunger, poverty and flooding as primary concerns, in contrast with the country’s National Adaptation Plan of Action, which prioritizes strategies such as early warning systems, afforestation and aquaculture
      2. no single adaptation measure will be sufficient to bolster Malawi’s adaptive capacity and resilience. Instead, much like the nature of the climate change threat, the country will need a suite of measures that cut across sectors. These include enhanced irrigation, drought cropping, flood protection, early warning systems, tree planting, conservation farming and fertilizer distribution. Also, specific cost–benefit ratios for individual adaptation instruments will change on the basis of their location as well as their timing
      3. adaptation approaches must be multiscalar — they cannot be implemented only by global actors. Much climate research has focused on the global or national level, given that climate change is a global phenomenon, and sovereign nations are deemed responsible for their emissions under the Kyoto Protocol
      4. most important, Barrett shows that the difference between ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ adaptation can concern whether it involved communities and respected their livelihoods or whether it was implemented by experts and failed to contribute to a reduction in community vulnerability. A similar line of research distinguishes between ‘soft’ adaptation pathways, which place the needs of a community equal to or above the priorities of adaptation, and the ‘hard’ pathways that place adaptation priorities first and require community sacrifices

 

ASSIGNED READING FOR SESSION TWELVE 

(click on session 12 on left to access reading) 

  1. Five Ways to make the Climate Movement Less White
    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/sep/21/five-ways-to-make-the-climate-movement-less-white

    1. build intergenerational power
    2. require white organizers to confront their internalized white supremacy
    3. conversation, understanding and acknowledgement of those peoples who are doing the work that don’t look like the cookie cutter activist
    4. acknowledge the history, practices and policies that created the inequality
    5. provide accessible environmental education that comes from nonacademic ways of learning
  2. The Climate Gap: Inequalities in How Climate Change Hurts Americans — Morrello-Frosch, Pastor, et al
    • Extreme Heat Leads to Increased Illnesses and Deaths—Particularly Among the Elderly, Infants and African Americans
    • Risk Factors for Heat-Related Illness and Death Are Higher for Low-Income Neighborhoods and People of Color
    • African Americans in Los Angeles Nearly Twice as Likely to Die from a Heat Wave
    • Agricultural and Construction Workers also at Increased Risk of Death
    • Air Conditioning a Critical Coping Tool for Heat-Waves—but Not Everyone Has Access
    • Transportation Is also a Critical Coping Tool During a Heat Wave—but African Americans, Latinos and Asians Less Likely to have Access to a Car
    • a recent study found that for each 1 degree Celsius (1°C) rise in temperature in the United States, there are an estimated 20–30 excess cancer cases, as well as approximately 1000 (CI: 350–1800) excess air-pollution-associated deaths (Jacobson 2008). About 40 percent of the additional deaths may be due to ozone and the rest to particulate matter annually (Jacobson 2008; Bailey et al. 2008).
    • Prices for Basic Necessities Expected to Skyrocket as a Result of Climate Change
    • Low-Income Families Already Spend a Bigger Proportion of Their Income on Food, Energy and Other Household Needs Than Higher-Income Families. With Climate Change, That Spending Gap Will Grow.
    • Climate Change Will Dramatically Reduce Job Opportunities or Cause Major Employment Shifts in Sectors that Predominately Employ Low-Income People of Color.
    • Fewer Jobs in Tourism, an Industry Employing a High Number of Low-Income People of Color
    • Key Recommendations to Close the Climate Gap
      • Maximizing Reductions in Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Toxic Air Pollution in Neighborhoods with the Dirtiest Air.
      • Ensuring New Fuels Don’t Increase Pollution in Low-Income and Minority Communities
      • Close the Health Impacts Gap Between People of Color and the Poor, and the Rest of the Population.
        • Focus Planning and Intervention in Poor and Minority Neighborhoods.
        • Use New Mapping Technologies to Identify Vulnerable Neighborhoods
        • Research the Potential Benefits and Harms of New Fuels
        • Measure the Success of Mitigation Strategies by Whether They Protect Everyone
        • Design Research That Identifies Opportunities for Targeting Greenhouse Gas Reductions to Reduce Toxic Air Emissions in Highly Polluted Neighborhoods
      • Develop Policies that Close the Gap Between the Economic Disparities Faced by People of Color and the Poor, and the Rest of the Population
      • Close the Conversation Gap
  3. The complexity of Climate Justice — Sovacool
    • as a result of historical greenhouse gas emissions, people in rich countries impose 200–300 times more climate-related health damage on others than they experience themselves
    • Malawi, arguably “the most climate vulnerable mainland country in Africa” with a history of flooding, drought, land degradation, poverty and food insecurity. Barrett essentially maintains that rich nations should help a country like Malawi adapt to the impacts of climate change, but he takes the issue further to ask: which adaptation mechanisms, funded by international donors but implemented by community groups and stakeholders, would work the best?
      • no single adaptation measure will be sufficient to bolster Malawi’s adaptive capacity and resilience. Instead, much like the nature of the climate change threat, the country will need a suite of measures that cut across sectors. These include enhanced irrigation, drought cropping, flood protection, early warning systems, tree planting, conservation farming and fertilizer distribution. Also, specific cost–benefit ratios for individual adaptation instruments will change on the basis of their location as well as their timing

 

Videos 

  • Causes and Effects of Climate Change ( 3 min)
    • Greenhouse effect is the main cause by trapping heat in the atmosphere
    • Human activities have dramatically increased the levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere
    • Ice sheets are melting
      • Sea levels rise
    • Weather is more extreme
    • Urban areas trap and increase smog
      • This causes asthma, heart disease, lung cancer, and other diseases
    • Switching to renewable energy sources would slow down this process and decrease the most severe side effects of climate change
  • Climate and Environmental Justice (2 min)
    • Movements around the world are rising up to oppose harms to their communities being perpetrated by businesses and capitalism
  • Climate Change is a Social Justice Issue | Adriana Laurent | TEDxUBC (15 min)
    • Climate justice is the intersection between social justice and climate change
    • Marginalized communities are disproportionately affected by climate change
    • Wealthy, privileged, low-risk countries are the ones most responsible for the damage to the climate
    • Countries who bear the biggest burden of climate change are those countries least responsible for climate change

USP 515 Session 9 Notes

October 19th and 21st
Session Nine: Research and Measurement Issues
In this session we examine the role of research and research methods in helping us understand environmental justice issues and impacts. We will address the following questions:

 

General Research Questions 

  1. What is research?
    • Looking for answers to questions
    • The careful, thoughtful study of phenomena using information
  2. What is empirical research?
    • Research based on information
  3. What is quantitative research?
    • Looking at measurable, quantifiable factors to answer questions
  4. What is qualitative research?
    • Looking at case studies and stories to answer questions
  5. What is community-based research?
    • Research that is done in the community
  6. What is community-based participatory research? CBPR

    • Research that includes the community in the planning and execution of the research.
  7. Who is in charge of community-based research?
    • Researchers working in the community.
  8. What is the Belmont Report? How did it establish principles for the use of human subjects in scientific research in 1979?
  9. What is an institutional review board? IRB

    • A board within an institution which decides whether the institution will approve the methodology and results of a particular research project.
  10. Why are institutional review boards resistant to approving community-based research?

 

Health Disparities Research

  1. What do we mean by health disparities?
    • Health disparities are the differences in health impact we see in populations with different demographic makeup, arising from the systemic denial of wealth, power, agency, and the accompanying access to healthcare, education, and protection from environmental harms.
    • Factors
      • Education
      • Wealth
      • Race
      • Gender
      • Age
    • Internalized oppression
      • Stereotype threat and standards of care
      • Stereotype lift and standards of care
    • Distrust of institutions
    • Stress (taruma, hypervigilance, environmental, internal, external, circumstantial, etc.)
    • Access to resources: food deserts, food swamps
    • Pre-existing conditions
    • Geographic factors
    • Occupation
    • Support from family/household
    • ZIP code
  2. What do we mean by the terms “race” and “ethnicity”?
    • Ethnicity is the historical sociocultural background of a particular group of people, including customs, language, ideas, traditions, etc.
    • Race is a concept created by fascist eugenicists to segregate people into artificial classification systems based on their purported membership in pseudoscientific racial populations.
  3. What do we know about the relationship between race, ethnicity and health disparities?
    • Race and ethnicity are among the most significant determinants of health because health resources are systematically denied to nonwhite populations and those which do not conform to white cultural norms.
  4. What is meant by the concept “culturally equivalent measures?
    • When we measure disparities, we must take into account confounding variables like markers of susceptibility, access to resources, exposure to harms, and any relevant cultural connotations and vernacular differences with the terms involved which may lead to reporting different answers.
      • For example people in Puerto Rico were asked for the first time to report their race in a recent government survey. Almost everyone marked “White” despite almost no one in Puerto Rico being white. This has been attributed to a lack of understanding of the basis of the question and the meaning of the terms in the cultural context of the region.
  5. What is “cultural bias”?
    • Cultural bias is assuming everyone else is like you, and failing to account for confounding variables which will distort the results of research.
    • Assumptions about knowledge
    • Product design
    • Research
    • Cultural dominance – expectations of presentation and behavior
    • particular preferences
  6. What is “cultural bias in measures”?
    • Assuming that research concepts in your methodology are understood the same way in different vernaculars means you will fail to control for the variable of ethnic vernaculars.
  7. What is meant by “cultural homogeneity” and why is it a problem?
    • Ignoring the demographic differences in a sample population means failing to control for significant confounding variables, and it masks the significance of those third factors.

 

Biomarkers Questions

  1. Why is it important to focus on research and measurement issues as we seek to understand, document and confront environmental injustice?
    • We need to document and understand the problem for two reasons. First, as a prerequisite for articulating solutions to the problems.
    • Second as a longitudinal indicator of progress.
  2. What is meant by the term “biomarkers”?
    • Biomarkers are indicators of exposure to environmental toxins. These can be found in the blood or the medical history of a subject.
  3. Are biomarkers an accurate tool?
    • Biomarkers accurately reflect the exposure to environmental toxins in the sample group. A well constructed sample will accurately reflect the exposure to environmental toxins in the larger population.
  4. How can we document exposure to toxins?
    • By using blood tests and other research methods to conduct population samples looking for biomarkers and then extrapolating conclusions about the larger populations.
  5. How can we document unequal protection from harm?
    • By segmenting toxics exposure by demographic factors.
  6. What role can community-based research play in the struggle for environmental justice?
    • Challenging the status-quo of research methods
    • Demanding attention to important issues affecting communities

 

Molecular Biomarkers Questions

  1. What is a “lulu”?
    • A locally unwanted land use
  2. What is a molecular biomarker?
    • A chemical signature in the blood reflecting exposure to some environmental factor
  3. What do each of the concepts below refer to?
    • Markers of exposure
      • A chemical signature left in the body which reflects that a person was exposed to some environmental toxin
    • Markers of effect
      • A person who has been exposed to environmental toxins may show symptoms or side effects like cancer, asthma, diabetes, etc.
      • Lead poisoning for example leads to decreased cognitive function.
      • Exposure to air pollution leads to asthma and higher covid mortality rates.
    • Markers of susceptibility
      • These can be caused by exposure to environmental toxins, and they can exacerbate the effects of future exposure. Asthma is a good example.
      • Can be cause by the social determinants of health
        • Social determinant of health: Black in Oakland
        • Black in Oakland => 30x incidence of Asthma
        • Asthma includes markers of susceptibility like bronchospasms
    • Ethics – Weighing potential benefits as well as harms
      • Ethics is the study of moral values; an ethical claim is anything that answers the question, “What ought one to do?”
    • Informed consent:
      • Must be
        1. Voluntarily given
        2. Must fully understand and comprehend the information given
        3. Must be ethical
      • In this context, people should know what they are signing up for when they participate in this kind of research, and they should be informed about the results they recieve back.

 

ASSIGNED READING FOR SESSION NINE (click on session 9 on left to access reading) 

  1. When It Comes to Racial Wealth Gap, Structural Racism Always WinsKenrya Rankin;  Colorlines, February 8, 2017
    • There is a huge racial wealth gap
    • For centuries white households have enjoyed wealth-building opportunities that were systematically denied to BIPOC
    • Modern policies continue to impede BIPOC from acquiring wealth equal to white households
  2. Molecular Bio-markers as Measures of Environmental Justice: A Proposed Health Assessment Paradigm — Gragg, Gasana, and Christaldi
    • Environmental equity and justice is a debate about everyone having equal access to environmental protection.
    • The purpose of this article is to review and assess the current methodologies for measuring environmental justice and put forth an argument for a new health-based measurement paradigm.
      • Use the relatively new approach of molecular epidemiology designed to incorporate human dosimetry data into environmental epidemiological studies.
    • An environmental contaminant is any chemical or substance, introduced by human activity, which has been associated with an adverse health effect in laboratory animal experiments or in studies of the human populations.
    • Article’s definition of environmental justice: Equal administration of environmental protection to all.
    • (Some discussion of the history of the unjust distribution of lulus and the EJ movement)
    • Classes of biomarkers
      1. Markers of exposure: radiation, chemical burns, etc
      2. Markers of effect: cancer, etc.
      3. Markers of susceptibility: asthma, sickle cell, diabetes, etc.
    • Blood tests and other methods can reveal these markers in populations
  3. Reporting individual results for biominotoring and environmental exposures: lessons learned from environmental communication case studies — Brody, Dunagan, et al
    • In 1999, Cape Cod, MA, women generously opened their doors to Silent Spring Institute researchers to conduct a study of household exposures to 89 endocrine disrupting compounds
    • Their questions raised difficult issues about whether and how to report individual results.
    • Over the last several years, other researchers have similarly offered participants their own results, and this practice is slowly becoming the norm rather than the exception.
    • As a starting point for ethical considerations, the 1979 Belmont Report, which established the basic ethical framework for modern biomedical research in the U.S., calls on researchers to avoid harm and maximize beneficence, autonomy, and justice
    • The decision about whether to receive results can be integrated into informed consent as a logical extension of this practice, which arose after past ethical abuses led to requirements for researchers to inform participants about the research protocol and its risks and benefits. Informed consent provides an early opportunity to set expectations about what participants will and won’t be able to learn from their results and ask about their choice.
    • These results are not designed for medical use and the information you receive may not suggest any actions you can take to reduce your health risk or exposure to these compounds… personal exposure reports should answer these basic questions: What did you find? How much? Where did it come from? Is it safe? What should I do?
    • Researchers and IRBs have often speculated that reporting to people on their own chemical exposures might be harmful, because results could generate excessive worry when the health effects and remedies are unclear. However, study participants generally want their results, and studies that have reported individual results along with comparative benchmarks and interpretive context find that participants benefited by learning a great deal about environmental health. They were able to understand results without undue alarm and began to consider possible exposure reduction strategies. In addition, the human research ethics principles of beneficence and autonomy and the additional perspectives of CBPR favor a “research right-to-know.” Researchers benefit from strengthened relationships with participants and new opportunities for scientific insight. Taken together, ethical principles and empirical observations suggest that individual report-back should become standard practice in most studies. Studies that have implemented individual report-back provide guidance for researchers and IRBs to adopt report-back practices that respond to the particular community context of research and help individuals understand the meaning of their results.
  4. Measurement Issues in Health Disparities Research; Health Research and Educational Trust — Ramirez, Ford, et al
    • Substantial differences related to physical health and mental health outcomes have been observed across different ethnic/racial groups
    • Measurement error can occur both through cross-cultural differences in the interpretations of the meaning of concepts and of items used to measure constructs
    • Cultural and idiomatic nuances can potentially exist within populations even though they share the same language
    • Measurement error might lead to biased results, and to biased estimates of prevalence and of the magnitude of risk factors, and therefore for the development of public policies and service delivery
    • failure to account for inter- and intrarace variation creates
      problems for health care providers and/or program designers who often rely on research data as a basis for their decision making. Thus, there is a growing demand for the validation of existing measures using samples of minority group members, and for establishing the cross-ethnic equivalence of health related assessment tools
    • Measurement equivalence in the context of cross-cultural research requires attention to both conceptual and metric equivalence.
    • Within the research community, racial and ethnic measurement bias has been identified by some as a methodological issue requiring careful examination
    • Qualitative studies can be used to assess the conceptual equivalence of existing measures
    • As research increasingly takes into account, and begins to focus on differences across diverse subgroups, issues of measurement comparability among these groups are paramount. Design and sampling issues must be considered carefully as they have bearings on the adequacy and generalizability of the compared population estimates.
    • Investigators performing comparative studies face the challenge of addressing measurement equivalence, crucial for obtaining accurate results in cross-cultural comparisons.
  5. Institutional review board challenges related to community-based participatory research on human exposure to environmental toxins: A case study — Brown, Morello-Frosch, et al
    • In 1979 the Belmont Report established principles for the use of human subjects in scientific research.
    • Developed partly in response to the Tuskegee syphilis study, Belmont identified three basic principles governing the ethical use of human research subjects.
      1. “respect for persons,” stressed that an individual’s decision to become a research participant must be voluntary, and called for special protection for those who lacked the capacity to make such a decision themselves
      2. “beneficence,” called on researchers to “do no harm” or barring that, to maximize the benefits of their research while reducing as much as possible the risk to the subject
      3. “justice” required careful attention to the fair distribution of risks and benefits, calling on researchers to select subjects only “for reasons directly related to the problem being studied” and to vigilantly avoid the selection of subjects for “their easy availability, their compromised position, or their manipulability.” Justice also required that those who bear the risks of research should, whenever possible, be among the first to benefit from its insights
    • Major institutional barriers exist in the way of important community based research. The following changes are suggested.
      1. Educate institutional review boards about the objectives and methods of community based researchers.
      2. Make sure academic IRBs known CBRs
      3. IRBs need to keep informed on CBRs and other cutting edge research approaches
      4. IRBs need to develop routing procedures for the review of CBR projects
      5. Provide clear guidance and tools for navigating IRB issues unique to academic-community collaboratives
      6. Regulate any conflicts of interest that IRBs may bring to the review process
      7. Reassess how IRBs oversee situations in which participants desire access to and disclosure of their own study results
      8. Encourage CBR and partners to educate IRBs about flexibility in regulations
      9. IRBs need to make a habit of working with CBRs and tribal IRBs
    • CBPR researchers report that IRBs are not generally attuned to their particular needs, due to their emphasis on individual consent that is based on a clinical model and their lack of understanding about the importance of community-level consent and the need to share individual data with participants.
    • In short, the very CBPR practices that concern many IRBs are exactly those that make community-engaged work so valuable for researching and addressing environmental justice issues.
    • IRBs will need to go beyond simply modifying traditional oversight procedures to fundamentally incorporating how CBPR ethics redefines the research enterprise itself, including researcher-participant relationships, academic-community interaction, and the right-to-know about chemicals in people’s environments, homes, and bodies

 

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT FOR SESSION NINE DUE October 19th and 21st

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? 

 

Other Notes

  • We went to watch a sunrise movement talk.

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.

Homework

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.
    4. WE WANT DECENT HOUSING, FIT FOR THE SHELTER OF HUMAN
      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 

 

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT FOR SESSION NINE DUE October 19th and 21st

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? 

 

Videos

Fighting Covid as Systemic Violence

CJ Trowbridge

10-11-2020

USP 515 Environmental Justice

Fighting Covid as Systemic Violence

Groups of people are not equal. Groups share unequal burdens which can limit their opportunity and resources while also increasing their exposure to harm. I will explore the unequal air pollution burden imposed on some groups, and the knock-on effects which lead to disparate covid impacts. I will then connect the efforts being made to solve the problem with what I see as the likely solution we will eventually reach.

It has been said that while covid does not see systemic injustices like racism, it does expose racism and other forms of systemic injustice in the world. (Woodruff) This is because there are many factors which contribute to elevated covid risk, and almost all of these factors are not distributed evenly among groups of people. For example, particulate matter in the air from things like road pollution leads to a dramatically increased risk of death from covid for people who live in polluted neighborhoods. (Wu)

When we see the AQI reported for smoke from wildfires, we are usually seeing the number of micrograms per cubic meter of particulates with a size of 2.5 microns. This number is called the PM2.5 and it also comes from things like vehicle exhaust. (EPA) Research by X Wu at Harvard this year found that an increase of just one microgram per cubic meter leads to an 8% increase in the risk of death from covid. (Wu)

Let’s look at a concrete example. There are two major freeways which run parallel across the city of Oakland. One of them passes through rich white neighborhoods in the Oakland hills. The other passes through poorer Black and Latino neighborhoods in the lowlands. About half a century ago, the rich white neighborhoods in the Oakland hills “temporarily” banned truck traffic on the freeway that goes through those neighborhoods. This ban has since been made permanent. (Pimentel) The effect of this ban is that all the freight trucks have to drive instead through the poorer black neighborhoods. This creates extreme differences in pollution between black and white neighborhoods in Oakland. As a direct result, according to the attached report from the Alameda County Department of Public Health, the average black person in Oakland is thirty times more likely to have a respiratory disorder than the average white person. The report also found that the average black person lives fourteen years less than the average white person because of these and other environmental disparities imposed on black communities. This is a clear example of protection from harm; wealthy white communities recognize the threat posed by air pollution and choose to shift that threat to poorer black communities. This protects white people at the direct expense of black people. This is systemic violence.

With this historical backdrop and the evidence for a clear connection between air pollution and increased risk from covid, it should come as no surprise that we are seeing stark differences today in the covid outcomes of black and white people. A recent report from the California Department of Public Health showed that black people were hospitalized for covid at about 250% the rate of non-Hispanic whites. (Crowley) The report also showed that while black people make up just six percent of California’s population, they account for 11% of the deaths from covid. (Crowley) This already high death rate has gotten much worse in the last few months since the report was published, with current accounts of the black covid death rate reaching as high as 600% versus non-Hispanic white. (Tsai)

In the words of Scientific American’s Jennifer Tsai, “Covid 19’s disparate impacts are not a story about race. They’re a story about racism.” This situation didn’t happen on accident or for unknown reasons. Wealthy white communities made a deliberate choice to shift harms onto black communities and treat them as sacrifice zones. This practice of moving harms onto less powerful communities is called toxic colonialism. We have centuries of examples throughout American and global history of this same pattern playing out. It’s not just air pollution that leads to these disparate impacts for black people; it’s the legacy of slavery, it’s the imposition of hundreds of years of generational poverty, the lack of access to healthcare, the lack of access to nutritious foods, the exposure to systemic violence and many other things which work together to produce these outcomes. (Tamene) We also have to think about toxic waste dumping sites. Black parts of Oakland have 400% more toxic chemical release sites than white parts of Oakland. These pollute the air, the ground, and the water. (Alameda County Department of Public Health) Furthermore, black people are not the only group impacted by these issues. There are countless marginalized groups being exposed to the same hazards and seeing similar disparate covid outcomes from Indigenous people to Hispanic people. (Tamene)

The solution to these problems seems two-fold. We should ameliorate these impacts while also eliminating the causes. On the one hand, we need to give access to healthcare, nutritious food, and the other determinants of health which the impacted communities lack. On the other hand, we must eliminate the hazards being imposed on them by those communities which see better outcomes as a result. If freight traffic is too hazardous for Piedmont; then it’s too hazardous for West Oakland. Bans on environmental hazards should extend to marginalized communities whenever they are imposed by privileged communities. Choosing to shift your own risks onto others makes you culpable for that impact. This conclusion is a traditional liberal perspective on this issue. I think this argument has failed.

While the argument holds true in theory, in practice it doesn’t leave any effective means of actually accomplishing what it sets out to accomplish. The problem is that you can’t force racist white people to share in the burdens they have already succeeded in shifting onto your neighborhood, and you can’t force them to take responsibility for the outcomes. A progressive solution must be more aggressive. The cost of doing the wrong thing must be high. The actuarial perspective is a powerful force. It seems to me that this is a major theme in the activism we’ve seen across the country this year. Police violence is one form of systemic violence against black communities, but air pollution is another form of systemic violence perpetrated on black communities with a more hidden but more significant impact. This realization seems to be coming into the zeitgeist in a new way this year.

The fact that black neighborhoods are treated as dumping grounds for toxic waste and other forms of systemic violence cries out for a vigorous and urgent reaction. It is perhaps no coincidence then that the Black Panthers started in one of the most polluted sacrifice zones in Oakland. Many of the groups which were targeted for dismantling and assassinations by the FBI COINTENPRO program such as the Black Panthers have since transformed into nonhierarchical non-dismantlable organizations united only by a loose set of principles and the desire to demand change through direct action. I think we will continue to see this trend grow and resist systemic violence in our community as a result of the increased risk of covid.

On the one hand, as we saw from Jennifer Tsai in the Scientific American article, covid exposes racism in the system. I propose that it also throws gasoline on the fire, accelerating the process by which the people recognize and articulate the threat they are under and stand up to demand change. We are seeing a huge increase in deaths and harms, but we are also seeing a huge increase in activism, community organizing, and community engagement under the new non-hierarchical, mutualist model. The nascent model of contemporary activism is itself an argument about how our communities should change to reflect a new sense of anti-kyriarchal interdependence and an end to toxic colonialism as a tool of systemic violence.

 

 

Works Cited

Alameda County Public Health Department. “East and West Oakland Health Data Existing Cumulative Health Impacts.” Published 03-09-2015.

Crowley, K. (2020, April 17). African-American COVID-19 deaths ‘disproportionately’ high in California. Retrieved October 11, 2020, from https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/04/16/coronavirus-african-american-covid-19-deaths-disproportionately-high-in-california/

EPA. Particulate Matter (PM) Basics. (2020, October 01). Retrieved October 11, 2020, from https://www.epa.gov/pm-pollution/particulate-matter-pm-basics

Ford, T., Reber, S., & Reeves, R. (2020, June 17). Race gaps in COVID-19 deaths are even bigger than they appear. Retrieved October 11, 2020, from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2020/06/16/race-gaps-in-covid-19-deaths-are-even-bigger-than-they-appear/

Pimentel, B. (2012, August 06). Ban on Trucks Made Permanent on I-580. Retrieved October 11, 2020, from https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Ban-on-Trucks-Made-Permanent-on-I-580-2744485.php

Tsai, J. (2020, September 08). COVID-19’s Disparate Impacts Are Not a Story about Race. Scientific American. Retrieved October 11, 2020, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/covid-19s-disparate-impacts-are-not-a-story-about-race/

Tamene, M. (2020, September 15). Why Black, Indigenous and Other People of Color Experience Greater Harm During the Pandemic. Retrieved October 11, 2020, from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/why-blacks-indigenous-and-other-people-color-experience-greater-harm-during-pandemic-180975773/

Woodruff, J. (2020, April 02). COVID-19 may not discriminate based on race — but U.S. health care does. Retrieved October 11, 2020, from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/covid-19-may-not-discriminate-based-on-race-but-u-s-health-care-does

Wu, X., Nethery, R. C., Sabath, M. B., Braun, D. and Dominici, F., 2020. “Air pollution and COVID-19 mortality in the United States: Strengths and limitations of an ecological regression analysis.” Science advances6, p.eabd4049. https://projects.iq.harvard.edu/covid-pm/home

USP 515 Session 7 Notes

October 5th and 7th
Session Seven: Health Justice: Case Study of Covid 19
In this session we will examine how the Covid 19 pandemic has further exposed social and environmental injustices in the United States. We will focus on what students learned through Assignment #1.

ASSIGNED READING FOR SESSION SEVEN

  1. Undocumented U.S. Immigrants and Covid-19 by Kathleen R. Page et al. 
    • “USCIS encourages all those, including aliens, with symptoms that resemble Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) (fever, cough, shortness of breath) to seek necessary medical treatment or preventive services. Such treatment or preventive services will not negatively affect any alien
      as part of a future Public Charge analysis.”
    • Under the Trump administration, immigrants have faced relentless attacks — tightening of the public charge rule, threats to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), asylum restrictions, and separation of families at the border — so immigrants are justifiably scared.
    • Covid-19 has exposed weaknesses in the U.S. health system. The country faces shortages of personal protective equipment, tests, and ventilators.
    • The Affordable Care Act excludes undocumented immigrants from eligibility for coverage, and an estimated 7.1 million undocumented
      immigrants lack health insurance.
    • As the country has adopted a suppression strategy, people have been asked to stay home as much as possible. The profound economic impact of these measures will be especially harsh for undocumented immigrants, many of whom work in service industries such as restaurants and hotels, or in the informal economy.
    • The $1 trillion economic relief package, which includes paid-leave benefits and direct cash for Americans, will not reach most undocumented immigrants or their families.
    • The disenrollment of immigrant families from SNAP over
      the past year takes on new meaning in light of the economic crisis resulting from Covid-19. With children home from school, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service has relaxed guidelines to enable summer food service and national school lunch programs to serve meals in noncongregate settings, but children of immigrants who disenrolled in SNAP will not receive these services.
    • Immigrants are part of our national fabric. Undocumented immigrants make vital contributions to the economy. Many have low-wage essential jobs as home health aides and will be helping our vulnerable elders.
  2. The Black New Deal
    • Across the country, Black People are being infected and dying at disportionate rates from COVID-19. In order to respond effectively to the needs of the Black community our elected officials, health experts, advocates and organizers must take a look at the ways in which the descendants of slaves, Black, African and African-Americans are most impacted by this virus through a racial and class lens.
    • This is a state of emergency for Black people that demands immediate action equal to those enacted in the presence of such a declaration.
    •  Demands
      • Publish desegregated data by race and zip code to properly track spread and to inform allocation of resources.
      • No person, company or entity should be allowed to profit off of a pandemic. Nor should the city of Oakland direct COVID disaster funding towards ongoing development plans without being informed
        by relevant data to support those decisions as being a science based response to the pandemic.
      • No government can place a demand on a people without incurring responsibility for the costs those demands will exact free masks for all, testing, retesting, contact tracing and healthcare, internet access, etc.
      • Reparations for Black people, who as a demographic are is proportionately affected in this moment as a result of historic structural, institutional, and systemic racism
    • Testing, public health, and patient rights
      • To have free, full, accessible testing and retesting sites, both walk-up and drive-through, in East and West Oakland and at encampments throughout Oakland.
      • Supply 500,000 reusable face masks and 500,000 bottles of hand sanitizer to the African American community.
      • Give anyone of African or African American ancestry priority status for testing, the same as medical personnel, first responders, and essential workers.
      • Black maternal health and birth workers’ rights are prioritized to offer greater safety and better outcomes for Black mothers and babies.
      • Better resource the already culturally competent and accessible clinics in East and West Oakland, with funds to enable them to buy tests and offer unlimited testing.
      • Data is collected and that the race of all people impacted and the outcomes of their interaction with COVID 19 such as hospitalization, ventilation, or death, are recorded and desegregated by zip code.
      • Ventilation and other care for COVID 19 not be denied due to anti-Blackness.
      • Systemic racism be addressed, through both short and long term solutions, as a root cause of the disproportionate impact of COVID 19 on Black people.
      • Alameda County to scale up their overall testing capacity, as more testing sites are needed countywide, including in many hospitals such as Highland Hospital.
      • All people are entitled to free masks, testing, contact tracing, and care – especially people who are currently incarcerated, living in congregate living situations, and newly released and entering into a living situation with family and/or other people.
      • Consistent best practices put in place, monitored, and enforced in all congregant living spaces that house vulnerable minority populations in danger of being infected by staff or one another, mass death due to lack of intentional care should be considered as a threat to life.
      • An end to all permits regarding potential pollutants in opportunity zones, closures for non-essential businesses that impact the environment, and concrete action on factors contributing to a toxic environment in Oakland.
      • Free healthcare and access to testing, including antibody testing, for all people.
      • Testing and a policy concerning containment at transitional homes.
      • Specific, relevant and community-led mental health resources for Black people to be made free, accessible and available to all, including grief support for people who have endured loss due to COVID
        19 and beyond.
    • Education and Families
      • A moratorium on school closures and co-locations in Oakland.
      • Universal passage of all students during this time due to lack of technology equity and redistribution of resources to ensure that all students have access to what they need.
      • Measures to increase access to the internet including buses with wifi in neighborhoods to provide internet access and making internet a public utility to ensure access for all.
      • Shelter, housing protections, and healthcare for all students and their families.
      • No criminalization of youth in Oakland related to COVID 19 precautions such as wearing a mask, etc.
      • Investment in community schools once students return, with wraparound services such as health clinics, nurses, mental health services, food for students and families.
      • Divest in school police departments altogether and invest instead in health services, arts and culture programming, and student supports.
      • Recognize the difficulty of distance learning for many students and create accessible resources. All students should have equal access.
      • Hold a fair vote for the school board that is open to youth.
      • Have a community oversight body that is chosen by community members to oversee a holistic transition back to school.
      • Create meaningful programs to offer mental health support for youth in their respective community.
      • Retention of and protections for Black Educators, including a right to return to jobs.
    • Support for Black Workers and Small Business Owners
      • Protection, security of employment rights and immediate paid sick days for all essential service workers, the majority of whom are Black people.
      • Personal protective equipment for all frontline workers and financial compensation for the risk that essential frontline workers are taking.
      • Mandatory free testing and retesting for all frontline workers and protection and paid time off for people who are self-isolating, parenting children or caring for others.
      • Overall support for the livelihood of Black people during this time.
      • Additional protection and support for rebuilding for Black businesses to ensure their survival, including
        a dedicated fund that is low-barrier and without application process.
      • Deferral of current payments and taxes for Black businesses and forgiveness of debts.
      • Requirement of the city to contract specifically with Black businesses in order to provide much-needed income.
      • Small businesses with fewer than 500 employees to receive no interest loans, reimbursements, and debt forgiveness.
      • Right to return requirement to combat systemic racism for all employees.
      • Community oversight body to ensure that “return to normal” does not usher in a new era of even more violent capitalism and greater dispossession for Black people and businesses.
      • Transparency around the cruise ship that docked in Oakland and the impacts on the workers, as well as free healthcare and testing for all workers who were exposed and their families. And any other major events that jeopardize the health and safety of workers, and communities the right to know.
      • The ability to declare and receive compensation for a standby for health and safety.
      • Right to return for workers who are laid off and right to stay for workers who do not want to leave their jobs. And right to return to those who elect to protect their health in a pandemic.
      • Protection for Black union leaders.
      • Congress should create a supplementary direct assistance program for the self-employed and microbusinesses to help cover the cost of lost business, paid sick leave, individual health care costs, and fixed expenses.
      • Self-employed Americans depend on critical e-commerce infrastructure, including financial services, shipping, and Internet connectivity. The federal government should ensure that these essential services remain fully operational, even as the public and private sectors take greater measures to contain the spread of the virus.
      • PPES mandatory for all Frontline and essential workers. State/County/City should make them available to employers at cost. Currently they have to get them at retail this is an additional cost they can afford.
      • Employers should receive subsidies as an incentive to protect their workers.
      • Unemployment Insurance rates should not increase because of COVID layoffs; rates should stay flat.
      • Workers compensation insurance should be covered for employers so that they do not take a hit when workers are out sick with COVID 19.
      • Congress should expand Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) by increasing the income threshold (which is dependent on a number of factors), including younger and childless workers, and eliminating the
        marriage penalty. Lawmakers should also allow it to be calculated and administered on a quarterly basis instead of annually, which would better support individuals struggling to manage short-term
        income volatility.
      • The City of Oakland and the County of Alameda should help facilitate a local Small Business Relief fund. The fund will be Hosted by The California Endowment, the Small Business Relief Fund to
        provide immediate support to struggling self-employed and small business owners. TCE will partner with Opportunity Fund, California’s largest nonprofit microlender, to ensure critical capital remains available to these entities throughout this crisis.
      • Six-month income replacement program conditioned upon full and continued employment of all restaurant staff, payment of rents to landlords, and ongoing payables to suppliers.
      • Provide rent abatement for the duration of the administrative closure followed by percentage rent through 2020 for tenants. This must be coupled with mortgage forgiveness for landlords.
      • Suspend state sales and payroll tax through end of year. Permit deferral of utility payments until reopening. Mandate that fees charged by third-party delivery platforms to our local restaurants be
        capped at a maximum 10% of the order.
      • Require business loss insurance to cover COVID-19 closures for hospitality businesses. The Governor must declare that the pandemic has caused physical loss and damage.
      • Suspend the payment of all insurance premiums (and, protect against a spike in premium related to COVID-19), utility payments, fines and provide cure periods to businesses for violations that do not
        pose an immediate hazard to the public and workers. All taxes, fees, premiums and fines must be suspended indefinitely until a thorough and thoughtful strategy can be implemented to address these
        payments.
      • Add flexibility to the definition of small business to allow small to mid-size restaurants to apply for aid.
      • Establish an on-call pool of African American restaurants to provide food and beverages throughout all city departments for all events, functions, meetings, etc. This list is not exhaustive.
      • City/County should contract with Oakland based businesses for office supplies, cleaning supplies, paper, vehicles, etc. This list is not exhaustive.
      • Corporate accountability- no more subsidies, no more tax breaks! Corporations, real estate investors, developers must pay their fair share to fund public resources we rely on like public health, affordable
        housing, etc.
      • Create a pool of funding to support the programming of CBOs, cultural institutions, direct service nonprofits, and artists whose services are essential to the cultural preservation and artistic health of
        marginalized communities
    • Public Safety/Criminal Justice Reform:
      • Decarceration for the safety of all people, including those inside prisons who are incarcerated and also
        for the workers inside jails.
        Mandatory testing for all people inside jails to prevent community spread.
        Re-entry resources for people who are released, including financial support, identification, food,
        housing, MediCal and funds for family members who house and care for newly released people.
        The removal of barriers resulting from a criminal record in accessing key essential human necessities.
        End the militarization of police.
        No national guard or military enforcement.
        No further criminalization, fines or arrest of Black people based on the COVID 19 mandates, including
        orders on masks, travel, etc. especially for unhoused people who are disproportionately targeted and
        impacted.
        All law enforcement must immediately cease profiling Black people, including health authority,
        housing authority, Oakland Police Department, sheriffs, BART and other transit police.
        End all requirements that people meet with parole officers, attend court, and other appointments. End
        all penalties related to this.
        Stop criminal enforcement and divert funds to invest in public health workers, education and
        distribution of resources.
        Cease police use of pandemic to conduct raids.
        No expansion of the surveillance state.
        No increased surveillance in connection to slow streets project.
        No use of disaster funds by City to implement non COVID19 data to implement non essential
        programming connected to non essential development/gentrification.
    • Housing
      • Access to hotel rooms and vacant units for all unhoused residents who want them now.
        A humane, dignified, harm reduction approach to non-infected residents in housing or hotels, to allow
        for the same shelter-in-place guidance and guidelines as the general public.
        Provide safe and secure off or onsite storage for all belongings of unhoused residents while sheltering
        in hotels or spaces.
        Access to jobs for hotel workers on a voluntary basis, to work in hotels providing housing and a right
        to return for all of the hotel’s usual workers once business returns to normal.
        No over-policing of people who are unhoused and sheltering in hotels.
        Resources for new mothers and babies in sheltering spaces, including diapers, wipes, and other
        essentials.
        Debt forgiveness of back rent for renters who cannot pay rent or utilities during this time.
        Personal protective equipment, training, testing, and paid sick leave for all people working in
        transitional housing and shelters. Protections for residents and workers.
        The return of buildings to the people once developers default, abandon it or leave it vacant.
        The use of private hotels, closed schools, the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center and the Coliseum to
        provide housing for those who need it.
        Rent and mortgage moratorium and forgiveness across the board for the length of time necessary not to
        experience massive evictions.
        No evictions citywide.
        Stop all sweeps of houseless settlements and provide bathrooms, showers, hand washing stations, soap,
        drinking water, laundry vouchers, dumpsters, vermin abatement, and cleaning supplies.
    • Transportation
      • Protections for transit drivers including partitions between driver and passengers, space for physical
        distancing, paid sick leave, and personal protective equipment.
        Disclosure of COVID 19 positive status for emergency services drivers who are transporting someone
        who has COVID 19.
        AC Transit must implement safety guidelines for drivers and passengers.
        Guaranteed free public transportation for frontline workers, including BART.
        Protection and funds for families of transportation workers and mandatory free testing and retesting for
        all transportation workers.
    • Other Resources
      • Stop all nonessential construction in marginalized high-risk communities.
      • Transparency on the use of COVID disaster funding in Oakland.
      • The City of Oakland’s Department of Race and Equity must activate itself around the disparity of this moment and be given additional resources and staff to do so.
      • City of Oakland shall Fully implement the ordinance establishing the Department of Race & Equity and increase staffing with an additional 7 FTE and requisite funding for the Department of Race and Equity.
      • Prioritizing community projects- City and County staff time and resources should go to community projects first (affordable housing, small business support, etc) and private profit-driven projects and proposals last.
      • Food access- ensure all Black people have access to healthy and fresh food even when the market drives up food prices in the crisis.
      • Diversify the boards and commissions that inform and govern city decisions to ensure Black folks are part of decision making.
      • Ensure pedestrian safety and traffic calming measures in East and West Oakland neighborhoods so that Black children and youth can walk, play and bike outside without fear of injury or fatality. Without the isolation or criminalization through enforcement of communities, with impacted communities at the table to be part of any plans.
    • Long Term Demands
      • Reparations, which include: debt forgiveness, free education, free healthcare, enforcement of CA Slavery Era Insurance Registry & similar local slavery era disclosure ordinances including mandatory reporting, imposition of maximum fines & penalties, mandatory fund contribution from companies that have disclosed already, and distribution of funds to Black-led organizations serving Black populations. Possibly even expand law to include profiteers from the housing/financial crisis and carceral systems.
      • Healthcare
        • Access to long term mental health care, funding of culturally competent free clinics, cooperatives, community programming centered around healing and facilitation of individual and group agency.
        • Environment – cessation of environmentally compromising projects  placed in black and brown communities, united and systematic planning, and immediate remediation of toxic neighborhoods.
      • Food Security
        • Create neighborhood food banks.
        • Fund urban farms.
        • Fund urban gardening.
        • Utilize public land to grow food for distribution.
        • Plant edible plants in marginalized neighborhoods.
        • Tax property owners for boarded “unavailable” housing discouraging vacancies to raise prices or to divest neighborhoods for speculators.
      • Education:
        • No more privatization of public schools serving Black communities.
        • Fully functioning state of the art facilities with the appropriate technology.
        • Culturally relevant curriculum.
        • No sale of school land to private developers.
        • Community oversight.
        • Staff should reflect student body recruitment and incentivize to become educators.
        • Find out of school community based enrichment.
        • College fund.
        • Professional/craft/trade training.
        • No police in schools.
      • Housing
        • Land trust for Black people in East and West Oakland. Utilizing eminent domain over vacant or underutilized properties to create a land trust for housing and economic development for Black people. This would be a form of reparations for many things but specifically for the use of eminent domain to displace Black residents from Oakland and ongoing gentrification etc.
        • Toxic-free communities, immediate repudiation, right to be housed elsewhere during remediation with funds to relocate with right to return/right of first refusal at the previous rate.
        • Equitable neighborhood services including cleaning and access to parks.
      • Criminal Justice Reform
        • Alameda County must increase diversion programs that keep people out of cages and allow them to successfully thrive.
        • End cash money bail.
        • No late night releases out of Santa Rita jail.
        • An audit of the Santa Rita jail by an impartial party.
        • Redistribute recidivism funds to culturally competent programming invested in education, job training, and service to those incarcerated.
        • Remove all police from schools and redistribute those funds to student materials and needs.
      • Public Safety
        • The Oakland Police Commission should have the autonomy to function without interference from city leadership. The citizens of Oakland have agreed with the establishment of the concept of the Police Commission in order to create proper and impartial oversight for OPD.
        • The city of Oakland must create and implement a response to mental health crisis, interpersonal violence and substance abuse that does not lead with law enforcement.
        • The city of Oakland must redefine public safety to include jobs, housing, education, clean streets, mental health and access to food, water and clean air.
        • The Oakland Police Department must be transparent and honest about incidents of Use of Force which still disproportionately impact Black Oaklanders.
      • Transportation
        • Provide free transportation to unhoused/displaced persons with a means to access health care and other human needs.
        • Provide free transportation to all low-income community members.
  3. Environmental Justice’s Role in the COVID-19 Crisis
    • Ibram X. Kendi, Director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, has led the call for states, counties, and labs to report racial demographics of the people being tested for, infected with, hospitalized with, or killed by the virus.
      • “Sometimes racial data tells us something we don’t know. Other times we need racial data to confirm something we already seem to know,” says Kendi.
    • For decades, researchers, and activists have documented the racial disparities that cause the underlying conditions leaving communities of color vulnerable. These systems show patterns of discriminatory practices that are all too apparent to be coincidental.
    • Lubna Ahmed, director of environmental health at WE ACT for Environmental Justice, stated, “In public health, it’s often said that your ZIP code is more indicative of your health outcomes than your genetic code.”
    • The placement of coal plants, waste incinerators, refineries, landfills, bus depots, and other sites in communities of color has long emitted toxic pollutants into the water and particulate matter into the air. Air pollutants enter through the lung and go into the bloodstream and are linked to cardiovascular and pulmonary disease, chronic health issues that increase chances of contracting severe cases of COVID-19. The Harvard study also points out bad indoor air quality and poor ventilation are prevalent in low-income housing.
    • We must apply a historic lens and complete demographic data on virus cases when allocating resources and supporting communities. We need to ensure there are not just emergency supplies provided, but also an inspection of how underlying conditions are created and can be fixed. We need leaders that understand these inequities and fight to change systems. To create justice, marginalized communities must have decision-making roles in regards to their health, homes, and futures.
  4. Essential Workers Denied Compensation For Job-Related COVID-19
    • several front-line workers addressed lawmakers Wednesday, calling for the state to enact a more robust set of protections for essential workers who believe they contracted the novel coronavirus while doing their job.
    • Rogers and workers’ advocates, including the AFL-CIO and the National Employment Law Project, want legislators to make the state’s coronavirus workers’ compensation laws presumptive.
      • That would mean if an essential worker got sick with COVID, it would be on the employer to prove that it wasn’t the job that got the worker sick — not on the employee to prove that the job did get them sick.
    • Joe Brennan from the Connecticut Business and Industry Association said a broad-brush presumptive provision could punish cash-strapped employers who made the decision to stay open for the public good.
      • “We’re not going to be able to accept the fact that every single employee that’s determined to be ‘essential’ … that anybody that gets COVID is going to be a workers’ comp case. I think that’s going to be extremely problematic for the system,” Brennan said.
  5. Exposure By Patrick Skahill
    • ?
  6. Connecting the Dots Between Environmental Injustice and the Coronavirus By Kathrine Bagley
    • Low-income and minority communities have been hit hardest by covid
    • structural inequalities are a major driver of why we see these different social and environmental conditions in communities of color.
    • You see these different patterns of land uses, whether it be transportation networks, large highways where you have a lot of traffic, or industrial activity.
    • There’s a recent Harvard study that shows that with long-term exposure to PM2.5 [fine particulate air pollution], there’s an association with higher mortality rates for individuals who had a Covid-19 infection. We have a pattern in this country, where communities of color and low-income communities host more of these [heavily polluting] land uses. I think that has played a major role in why we see the disparate impacts of Covid-19 as it relates to morbidity and mortality rates.
    • higher levels of air pollution were linked to an 8-percent rise in the Covid-19 death rate
    • “We have a lot of communities that are basically sacrifice zones because they are dumping grounds for polluting facilities.”
    • PM2.5 itself causes asthma, heart disease, stroke. It elevates blood pressure. It increases infant mortality rates. It can cause birth defects. It can cause low-birth-weight births. It also can cause diabetes, cancer, premature mortality. That’s PM2.5 by itself.
    • these [Trump administration] rollbacks that’s really problematic for communities impacted by environmental injustice.
  7. Coronavirus is not just a health crisis — it’s an environmental justice crisis By Yvette Cabrera
    • “Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point” -MLK
    • The COVID-19 pandemic is not just a health crisis, it’s an environmental justice crisis.
    • The environmental movement should reckon with the
      disproportionate effects of environmental contamination
    • as skyrocketing unemployment is predicted to increase poverty rates and widen racial disparities, these same communities find themselves in the crosshairs of COVID-19. In Chicago, African Americans represent 60 percent of the city’s COVID-19-related deaths, despite only comprising 30 percent of the city’s population. African Americans in states such as Michigan, Illinois, and Louisiana have also been disproportionately killed by COVID-19 — and early data suggest the disparity could be widest in the South.
    • Decades ago, sociologist and civil rights activist W.E.B. DuBois zeroed in on how social and environmental conditions led to health disparities between black and whites, and he offered solutions that addressed the physical environment.
    • COVID-19 is one more chapter in this saga, and we’re seeing that the severity of outcomes is related to a person’s environment. Public health researchers and advocates are concerned that those who live in polluted neighborhoods will fare the worst. It’s why residents are pleading for
      stronger air pollution regulations in San Bernardino, California, and why residents of Louisiana’s St. James Parish are battling yet another plastics plant.
  8. A State-by-state look at Coronavirus in Prisons – The Marshall Project
    • Coronavirus infection rates are extremely high in prisons compared to the outside population
      • 545 basis points for California prisons versus 130 for San Francisco and 208 for California
      • 1598 for NJ prisons versus 229 for NJ
    • Death rates are also extremely high
      • 27 basis points death rate for NJ prisoners versus 18 for general NJ public

 

Other Notes

  • Structural determinants of health
    • Rich people can buy better health
    • Health outcomes mirror marginalization
  • Sacrifice zones
    • The place where the LULUs are
  • True cost accounting
    • Incorporating the cost of externalities into the cost of goods and services
  • Economic blackmail
    • Sometimes communities and individuals are forced to choose short-term needs over long-term needs
  • Synergistic effects
    • The combined effects of different kinds of pollution harming the human body.
  • New deal
    • The idea that the federal government should intervene in a period of crisis
  • Teach-in on abolishing the police on campus
    • Articulated policy decisions around policing as decisions rather than the broader cultural perspective that this is the only default based on assumptions from neoliberalism
    • I brought up Title IX and the need to represent the needs of students rather than just the institution by bringing real crisis counsellors on to campus instead of relying on academic counsellors
    • I brought up the antifascist work we did at rainbow with the IWW
    • I brought up the playa rangers and Moxie’s involvement with High Rock doing similar work at bars and clubs in the city
    • We talked about butterfly brigades and responding to the exoneration of Dan White by burning cop cars
  • Capitalist response to covid
    • President calls it a Chinese threat to the economy
    • Government was very late in providing testing
      • Tried to oppose testing
    • Some employees classified as essential.
      • Furloughs not provided
      • Enormous job losses
      • Loss of income and benefits
      • Government pitted cities and states against each other
        • Stole PPE from companies, countries, etc
    • Increases income inequality
    • Increases insecurity
      • Rise in domestic violence, suicide, crime, mental health crises, etc.
    • Evictions and rise in homelessness
    • Overcrowded housing
    • Government does not provide healthcare to fill the lost benefits due to job losses
    • Pharmaceutical industry being subsidized
    • Government giving misinformation due to political interests
      • Fake treatments pitched at the pulpit and then not taken when he got sick
    • Economic growth prioritized over people’s lives
    • Social inequalities increased in educational arena
    • Technology gap
      • BIPOC students disadvantaged in online classes because of a lack of access to computers and the internet
  • Socialist response to covid
    • EU works with WHO to understand covid
      • Quickly develops and deploys testing
    • Government backed furloughs
      • Jobs guaranteed
      • Salary guaranteed
      • Sick leave guaranteed
      • Benefits guaranteed
      • Housing protected
        • Eviction ban
        • Rent assistance
    • Government provided widespread testing
    • Schools were able to remain open because of masks and testing

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT – DUE October 12th

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. 

USP 515 Session 6 Notes

September 28th and 30th
Session Six: Unequal Protection from Harm

Discussion Questions

In this session we will examine the concepts of “unequal protection”, “environmental racism”, and environmental justice” in relation to theory, policy and practice. We will address the following questions:

  1. What do we learn from reading Lawrence Summer’s memo?
  2. Why is it important that people know about Lawrence Summer’s memo?
  3. What does David Harvey mean when he talks about an “environment of justice”?
  4. What did you learn from the readings about the relationship between place and health?
  5. What it meant by the concept “protection from harm”?
  6. Is it important for public officials to explicitly protect people from harm? Why or why not?
  7. What are the implications of not protecting people from harm?
  8. What are the implications of protecting some people and groups from harm more than others?

Readings

  1. GEP Memorandum – Summers
    1. The author claims that we should try to move dirty industries to poor countries because it’s cheaper to choose to endanger the public in poor countries.
    2. Polluters can get away with paying less wages in poor countries.
    3. Countries in Africa are “UNDER-polluted.”
      1. Therefore we should shift pollution from developed countries to balance out the lack of pollution in Africa.
    4. Only rich people care about the health risks of pollution.
    5. Response from a Brazilian official, “Your reasoning is perfectly logical but totally insane… Your thoughts [provide] a concrete example of the unbelievable alienation, reductionist thinking, social ruthlessness and the arrogant ignorance of many conventional ‘economists’ concerning the nature of the world we live in…. If the World Bank keeps you as vice president it will lose all credibility.”
  2. The Environment of Justice – Harvey
    1. First, we recap the previous memo and the response from Brazil which was mirror by other world leaders.
    2. “The Economist,” which Lenin called “A tabloid that speaks for British millionaires,” agreed with the Memo and its logic.
    3. Harvey characterizes the memo as an endorsement of “Toxic colonialism ” or the idea of leveraging the displacement and extermination of indigenous populations by adding toxic waste.
    4. Harvey touches on the fact that in the United States, the most reliable predictor of LULUs/toxic waste dumps is the presence of communities of color, and indigenous communities.
    5. Harvey connects environmental justice to civil rights, and shows that many black groups in particular define environmental justice this way.
    6. There seems to be more to the conversation but the text ends here.
    7. Differences Justice as Spatial/Institutional
    8. Five main points
      1. Summers’ argument is class-situated: Representing affluent groups and threatening non-affluent groups.
      2. Questions of how and why hazardous wastes are produced are never even mentioned.
      3. Summers’ economic logic assumes pre-discursive construction of his neoliberal perspective.
      4. First National People of Colour Environmental Leadership Summit drafted a manifesto of environmental justice with seventeen clauses
        1. Sacredness of mother earth, ecological unity
        2. Demands cessation of production of toxins, hazardous wastes
        3. Affirms the need for urban and rural ecological perspectives
        4. Opposes the destructive operations of multinational corporations, military occupation
        5. Requires that individuals make personal decisions to consume less (de-growth)
      5. In 1994, responding to reports that minority communities were disparately impacted by environmental hazards, the Clinton administration issued an order asking federal agencies not to do that.
  3. Almost Everything You Need to Know About Environmental Justice — the United Church of Christ
    1. UCC claims to have founded the environmental justice movement
    2. UCC defines environmental racism as the siting of hazardous waste sites, landfills, incinerators, and polluting industries in ethnic and racial minority communities.
    3. They list the many common environmental issues
      1. The placing of hazardous and other noxious facilities
      2. Lead poisoning among children
      3. Asthma and other respiratory illnesses
      4. Unsafe, indecent, and exploitative workplace condition
      5. Cancer, birth defects, and developmental illnesses
      6. Pesticide poisoning of farm workers
      7. Contaminated sites and properties
      8. Transportation thoroughfares
      9. Congested and decaying housing conditions
      10. Lack of protection of spiritual grounds and indigenous habitats
      11. Pollution and lack of sound economic development
      12. Lack of access to quality health care
      13. Unequal enforcement of environmental laws
      14. Lack of people of color in the environmental professions
      15. Inadequate community participation in the decision-making process
    4. They list several major historical events
      1. 1982 Warren County, NC
      2. 1983 US General Accounting Office Report
      3. 1987 UCC Toxic Waste and Race in the United States Report
      4. 1990 Dana Alston publishes We Speak For Ourselves: Social Justice, Race, and the Environment
      5. 1990 Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality
      6. 1990 University of Michigan Symposium on Race and the Incidence of Environmental Hazards
      7. 1991 First National POC Environmental Leadership Summit
      8. 1989 ATSDR Minority Health Initiative
      9. 1992 Establishment of EPA Office of Environmental Justice
      10. 1994 Federal Interagency Symposium on Health Research and Needs to Ensure Environmental Justice
      11. 1994 Environmental Justice Executive Order
      12. 1994 National Environmental Justice Advisory Counsel
    5. The collective and individual health of members of a community is the direct result of a set of physical, social, cultural and spiritual factors. The emphasis of looking into the importance of the comprehensive health and well being of a community was directly initiated by the Environmental Justice movement. The Environmental Justice movement represents a new vision created through a series of community processes whose main objective is a transformative public conversation about what is necessary for sustainable, healthy and vital communities. The Environmental Justice movement envisions the development of a community based, multi-task integrative paradigm that facilitates the unification, development and permanency of healthy and sustainable communities.
    6. War is another major contributor to environmental harms
    7. UCC gives a list of things individuals should do about environmental justice
      1. Talk to members of your church and others
        in the community
      2. Research all the facts
      3. Develop a good description of the problem
      4. Collect good documentation of issues and
        activities
      5. Consult with other communities with similar issues; don’t reinvent the wheel
      6. Select the most appropriate resource persons and organizations
      7. Identify government agencies who are supposed to help
      8. Clarify the legal, scientific and medical issues involved
      9. Hold community meetings to share information and strategize
      10. Prepare educational materials for your community
      11. Formulate an action plan
      12. Form partnerships with university, environmental, health and other groups
      13. Devise a media strategy
      14. Don’t be intimidated or overwhelmed; you are the expert on your community
      15. Network with other environmental justice groups
    8. UCC gives a list of 17 guiding principles for environmental justice
      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 people, 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 waste, and radioactive materials, and that all past and current procedures are 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 partner 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 People to the United States 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 providing 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, people 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 insure the health of the natural world for present and future generations.
    9. UCC concludes with a list of suggestions for the future including careers people should pursue in order to contribute to the cause of environmental justice.

Other Notes

  • Learned the difference between framing relationally, spatially, institutionally
    • Relationally/Individually: Individual police vs individual victims of brutality
    • Institutionally: The institution of the police
    • Spatially: The way the police are different in different places
      • ZIP Code is the most important indicator of success in life
        • Wealthy people can buy in the zip code they want
        • ZIP code, race, and class are analytically similar

Homework

No homework