This course explores the linked concepts of environmental inequality, environmental racism, and environmental justice by studying how environmental “goods” (e.g. access to a healthy environment and vital resources) and “bads” (e.g. exposures to toxins, disasters, and other hazards) are unevenly distributed among different social groups (e.g. races and classes) over space and time. We begin with an introduction to the history and core concerns of the environmental justice movement as it emerged and expanded in the U.S. during the late 20th century. We then examine how the creation of environmental (and social) inequalities has been, and remains, a central component of the development of modern society and its political economic systems—and we consider the values, institutions, and power dynamics that underlie this trajectory. Drawing on the critical approach of political ecology, we then explore these processes in greater detail through case studies of environmental inequality and racism and associated struggles for justice in a range of specific geographic contexts and socio-environmental systems.
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