Kent E. Portney


environmental justice, equity, minority populations, socio-economic status, sustainability, waste facilities


Over the past ten years, two environmental "movements," have evolved and gained rapidly in both stature and import. One of these, the environmental justice or equity movement, has sensitized Americans to its contention that minority populations and people of lower socio-economic status have disproportionately borne the risks of environmentally impacting events. The other movement, advocating sustainability, focuses on fostering behavior and policies that contribute to economic growth in environmentally responsible ways. In actuality, as will be elaborated later, sustainability has several meaning, which can be categorized in at least three distinct and sometimes even contradictory ways. Any connection between the two “movements” has been given little consideration, especially consideration of the ways in which they are incompatible with each other. That is the purpose of this Essay: to speculate on ways that environmental justice activities, especially those associated with efforts to prevent the siting of unwanted local waste facilities, are consistent with sustainability and to investigate whether these two movements are consistent with each other. More specifically, this Essay examines the ways that the pursuit of environmental justice may, at least conceptually, undermine goals of sustainability.



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