In this seminar we will explore global—domestic and international— environmental issues from a perspective that foregrounds questions of social justice. The field of environmental justice asks for fair treatment of all people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, economic capacity, national origin, and education level with respect to environmental politics and their implementations. In this and other aspects, the environmental justice perspective differs from traditional environmental philosophies in that it seeks to combine a concern for the natural world with a consciousness of ethnic, class, and gender discrimination. From this vantage point it is argued that throughout the world there are marked and increasing disparities between those who have access to clean and safe resources and those who do not. Often poor and minority communities bear a disproportionately large burden of toxic contamination and suffer the health problems that result from it, while the elite and powerful tend to control the valuable resources. Disparities of this nature may be the result of historical circumstances, contemporary economic and trade relations, and inadequate or inappropriate governmental regulation. They may also be the result of deliberate targeting of disenfranchised communities or weak nations to bear the burden of powerful communities’ and nations’ unsustainable consumption patterns. Perceived as “paths of least resistance”, minority and low-income communities or nations are targets as sites for dumping of toxic waste and environmentally hazardous substances.
Dr. Amity Doolittle