Introduction to Environmental Justice

This seminar will examine the interplay of race, socio-economic status, and interest group politics and the formulation and implementation of U.S. federal and state environmental policy. It will involve an interdisciplinary examination of some fundamental environmental problems faced by individuals and communities of color. In particular we will consider the proposition that people of color and socio-economically disadvantaged individuals, whether residing in urban or rural communities, bear a disproportionate burden of environmental pollution and its health consequences. Studies suggesting that people of color have environmental burdens imposed upon them unfairly due to over-siting of industrial plants and landfills in their communities and from exposures to pesticides and other toxic chemicals at home and on the job will be reviewed and analyzed. Consideration will be given to the viewpoint that there exists within the United States, as well as globally, a pattern of environmental inequity, injustice and racism. Furthermore, we will evaluate the contention that underlying this pattern is an historical failure on the part of interest groups, particularly the mainstream environmental movement, to provide a vision and strategy to address environmental racism and injustice.

Dr. Jamie Hoyte
Harvard University