so i've got loads of excuses why i haven't posted in 2 weeks: 35 hours of work at the Maison one week, and 2 looming papers that require a substantial amount of research and reading. ok so that was only 2. but i have been busy. here's what i have so far for my research paper for Ecological Anthropology. (be nice, i haven't proofed it yet. i've still got a long, 18-pages long, way to go before i get to that stage).
The Environmental Justice Movement in the United States arose during the later part of the 20th century. As the introduction of “Our Backyards: a quest for environmental justice” explains, EJ is committed answering several important questions: “ Do historically disadvantaged groups incur a disproportionate share of society’s environmental risks?” and “Do these risks result in significant and widespread health problems for racial minorities and the poor?” This paper will explore these questions using case studies of migrant farm workers in the United States. Before exploring these case studies, we briefly examine the background of environmental justice.
Bryant a scholar working in EJ (5) claims that that the book “Silent Spring” (1960) by Rachel Carlson was the major catalyst for the modern environmental movement. After this and several other important works were published (see Bryant 5), new environmental organizations cropped up across the United States, particular in college and university campuses. The importance of the movement nation wide is reflected in U.S. legislature passed in the 1970s such as the Clean Air Act, Clear Water Act, and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (Bryant 5). The environmental movement of the early 1960s and 1970s was primarily concerned with issues of preservation, conservations and environmental aesthetics (6).
The term “environmental justice” was first used in 1976 at a conference organized by students of the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment. The conferences was entitled “Working for Environmental and Economic Justice and Jobs.” The conference, attended by a diverse group of activists, scholars, union workers, and community leaders, was focused on understanding the interplay of environmental issues and economic and job growth.
Environmental Justice, as a movement, did not take root until two years later. Bryant cites the struggle of the black community in Warren country, North Carolina as the first articulation of a case of environmental injustice to the general public. This controversy started in 1978 when a company illegally sprayed 31,000 gallons of PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) on the roadsides of fourteen different counties in North Carolina. The government became aware of the problem and considered options for shipping it to waste disposal facilities in another state; however, these options were too expensive. Instead the government decided to bury the contaminated soil in Warren County, a predominantly African American community. When the community learned of these plans, they organized. Much of the leadership in organizing was provided by Dollie Burwell a member of a local church and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (7).
Over 500 people were arrested at protests held at the Warren County dumpsite, drawing national attention. As Bryant explains, the “confrontation drew civil rights activists from all over the country to demonstrate non-violently against the disposal of contaminated soil in the predominantly black community” (7). The protests were not successful in halting the disposal of the hazardous PCB wastes in Warrant county, but as Bryant claims, the event “raised the consciousness of black Americans across the country to the potential health effects of hazardous waste disposal in their communities” (8). The case of Warren Country can be seen as merger of the civil rights movement and environmental movement as black activists across the country started to frame civil rights in terms of health risks, particularly environmental health risks.