Unequal Protection: Environmental Justice and Communities of Color
In 1978, in the rural hamlet of Triana, Alabama, populated almost entirely by African Americans, massive levels of DDT were discovered in the creek where its citizens fished, and in those citizens' blood. Triana, dubbed "the unhealthiest town in America," embarked on a quest to fix responsibility for the pollution and to seek legal redress.
Triana's story has been repeated in different forms all over America - in Louisiana's petrochemical corridor, known as "Cancer Alley"; in riot-torn South Central Los Angeles, the environmentally "dirtiest" zip code in California; on Native American reservations burdened with waste disposal sites and coal-fired power plants; and in urban neighborhoods from Brooklyn to Chicago's South Side to the barrios of East L.A., surrounded by decaying industries and often targeted for toxic dumps, landfills, and incinerators. All of these places are inhabited largely by people of color and are experiencing unequal protection under the environmental law of the land.
This important book, compiled by a national leader in the fight for environmental justice, shows in case after case how environmental laws have been inconsistently applied, so that people of color suffer disproportionately from public health hazards. It describes how abuses have flourished for lack of government action and organized resistance, and documents the strategies and struggles of grassroots groups now building coalitions among community activists and traditional environmentalists.
Tracing the cutting edge of social change, Unequal Protection clearly shows that environmentalism and the movement for social justice - long on separate tracks - are converging. Environmental justice is moving to the political center stage as legislation such as NAFTA and the Environmental Justice Act (first co-sponsored by then-Senator Al Gore) come before Congress.
Unequal Protection grew out of the landmark First People of Color Environmental Summit in 1992. Its contributors include journalists, academics, lawyers, and local leaders - mainly people of color - who define the "environment" as the places where people live, work, and play. Here they forge a new agenda for environmental justice that will guide activists and policymakers into the future.
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