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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Retooling Environmental Justice

  • Author(s): Salcido, Rachel
  • et al.

This Article responds to environmental justice arguments that undermine, rather than safeguard, health and environmental quality for low-income and minority populations.  Efforts by scholars and practitioners to clearly define “environmental injustice” to facilitate use of racial discrimination legal frameworks have had minimal success and are ultimately limiting the ability to embrace a broader arsenal of weapons in the fight against injustice.  The greatest weapon of the environmental justice movement is its people.  Environmental justice must evolve more rapidly beyond efforts to merely give communities voice, and actually redistribute power and decision making to open up opportunities for social movement intersection.  The struggle to define environmental justice is difficult because it attempts to crystalize the efforts of converging social movements that continue.  This Article advocates more explicit acceptance of environmental justice as a movement which requires focus on new strategies and tools that address historic pollution and prevent future inequitable environmental impacts.  Considering the past, present, and future of environmental justice, this article advocates for expedited cleanups of historically polluted areas, mandatory environmental justice assessments (EJA) in existing planning processes, and robust environmental justice components in local land use plans; these coordinated strategies would empower communities to realize a vison of land use freed of the historic imposition of inequity.

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