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Recent & Recommended Books on Environmental Justice

The fight to end environmental injustice – wherein some communities or groups are disproportionately subjected to higher levels of environmental risk than other segments of society – gained unexpected traction during the quarantine created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Washington Informer selected a few of the more recent works that address the changes in sustainability efforts since the health crisis began:

Indigenous Environmental Justice by Karen Jarratt-Snider, Marianne O. Nielsen
With connections to traditional homelands being at the heart of Native identity, environmental justice is of heightened importance to First People and their communities. Not only do irresponsible and exploitative environmental policies harm the physical and financial health of First People and their communities, they also cause spiritual harm by destroying land held in a place of exceptional reverence for tribe members. With focused essays on important topics such as the uranium mining on Navajo and Hopi lands, the Dakota Access Pipeline dispute on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, environmental cleanup efforts in Alaska, and many other pertinent examples, this volume offers a timely view of the environmental devastation that occurs in Indian Country.

Lessons in Environmental Justice: From Civil Rights to Black Lives Matter and Idle No More by Michael Mascarenhas

The 18 essays in this collection explore a wide range of controversies and debates surrounding environmental justice from the U.S. and across the globe. An important theme throughout the book is how vulnerable and marginalized populations, including the incarcerated, undocumented workers, rural populations, and racial and ethnic minorities, bear a disproportionate share of environmental risks. Each reading concludes with a suggested assignment that helps student explore the topic independently and deepen their understanding of the issues raised.

Refusing Death: Immigrant Women and the Fight for Environmental Justice in LA by Nadia Y. Kim

The industrial-port belt of Los Angeles is home to eleven of the top twenty oil refineries in California. Coupled with being home to the largest ports in the country, and some of the most congested motorways in the nation, its levels of pollution are slowly killing residents. In response, a grassroots movement for environmental justice has grown, predominated by Asian and undocumented, immigrant women who are transforming the political landscape of the nation. In Refusing Death, Nadia Y. Kim tells their stories, finding that the women are influential because of their ability to remap politics, community, and citizenship in the face of the country’s nativist racism and system of class injustice. Kin documents how environmental injustice fosters neglected schools, deportation, and political marginalization.

Climate Change from the Streets: How Conflict and Collaboration Strengthen the Environmental Justice Movement by Michael Mendez

Although the science of climate change is clear, policy decisions about how to respond to its effects remain stalled. Even when such decisions claim to be guided by objective knowledge, they are made and implemented through political institutions and relationships—and all the competing interests and power struggles that this implies. Michael Méndez explores the perspectives and influence low-income people of color bring to their advocacy work on climate change. Arguing that environmental protection and improving public health are inextricably linked, Mendez contends that we must incorporate local knowledge, culture, and history into policymaking to fully address the global complexities of climate change and the real threats facing our local communities.

Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret by Catherine Coleman Flowers

“Waste” documents the fight for basic sanitation in a town once known for its violent, racist past. Too many people, especially the rural poor, lack an affordable, safe means of disposing waste from their toilets, and, as a consequence, live amid filth. Flowers calls this America’s dirty secret. In this powerful book she tells the story of systemic class, racial, and geographic prejudice that foster Third World conditions, not just in Alabama, but across America, in Appalachia, Central California, coastal Florida, Alaska, the urban Midwest, and on Native American reservations in the West. The book shows how sanitation is becoming too big a problem to ignore as climate change brings sewage to more backyards, and not only those of poor minorities.

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