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Building Social Capital to Protect Natural Capital: The Quest for Environmental Justice

Authors
Disciplines
  • Ecology
  • Geography

Abstract

PO LITIC A L EC O N O M Y R ESEA R C H IN STITU TE 10th floor Thompson Hall University of Massachusetts Amherst, MA, 01003-7510 Telephone: (413) 545-6355 Facsimile: (413) 545-2921 Email:[email protected] Website: http://www.umass.edu/peri/ Building Social Capital to Protect Natural Capital: The Quest for Environmental Justice Manuel Pastor 2001 Number 11 POLITICAL ECONOMY RESEARCH INSTITUTE University of Massachusetts Amherst WORKINGPAPER SERIES Building Social Capital To Protect Natural Capital: The Quest for Environmental Justice Manuel Pastor January 2001 Commissioned for the Natural Assets Project Funded by the Ford Foundation Program on Development, Peacebuilding, and the Environment Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) 1 University of Massachusetts Amherst 2 Introduction Across the United States, the concept of environmental justice has been gaining ground. Initially defined in the negative – a reduction in the disproportionate exposure of minority residents to various hazards – environmental justice advocates often took as a first task raising awareness of environmental disparities both nationally and locally. In this effort, activists have had success at changing policies as well as projects. In 1994, for example, President Clinton acknowledged the issue in a Presidential Executive Order directing all federal agencies to take into account the potentially disproportionate burdens on U.S. minority communities of pollution or hazard siting. In 1998, the Southern California Air Quality Management District created a local Task Force on Environmental Justice, partly in response to a lawsuit filed by community advocates who contended that the District’s permit trading system was leading to “hot spots” in minority neighborhoods.1 While these policy victories have been primarily directed at reducing harm or ameliorating inequities, environmental justice (EJ) also can offer hope for a more positive and harmonious visio

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