Environmental Justice

IS 202

Fall Semester, 2000


Rebecca P. Judge, Ph.D.



Course Objective:


Environmental justice is an issue, a perspective, a program area and a goal, depending on one’s perspective and place.  In all cases, the term reflects a growing concern that environmental goods – and bads – may not be distributed in a just manner across peoples, societies, classes and countries. 


Individuals engaged in research, policy and activism related to environmental justice base their positions on both empirical observation and received theories of justice.  Thus, while much of the debate in the area of environmental concerns whether or not observed differences in environmental quality exist in patterns that reflect racial or economic characteristics, an equally great amount of ink has been spilled debating whether observed differences  reflect a just distribution.  Justice, like beauty, appears to be in the eye of the beholder.


Participants in this class will engage in a critical examination of the various themes and disciplines that inform our concepts of environmental justice.  The objective of this endeavor is for each participant (1) to develop her or his own informed view of what would constitute a just distribution of environmental quality, with an understanding of those theories of justice that inform that view, (2) to become familiar with the present distribution of environmental quality across peoples and societies, and (3) to understand and appreciate those diverse voices which inform the environmental justice debate today.


Course Description:


Our work in the course will be informed by various readings, speakers and discussions.  The readings and the course follow a loose organizational structure that takes us through (in rough order): an introduction to both theories of justice in general and perspectives on the characteristics of environmental justice (or injustice);  a review of empirical evidence supporting claims of just or unjust distribution of environmental quality both domestically and internationally; an examination of those social and legal institutions that may contribute to the just or unjust distribution of environmental quality, and finally; a review of proposed ways to bring about a more just distribution.


Throughout the course, material that we study will be applied to an on-going case analysis of the Manitoba hydroelectric project, its impact on native peoples, and the moral and ethical implications of our own purchase of electricity generated by Manitoba Hydroelectric. We hope that our work on this particular case can be applied fruitfully to the interfaith inquiry into issues pertaining to Manitoba Hydroelectric scheduled to take place at Luther Seminary this October.


Course Material:


A course pack will be available for this course at the College Bookstore. 


Course Work:


Students in this course will be asked to write three papers, assigned so as to help achieve the objectives listed above.  The first paper, due October 10, asks students to compare and critique alternative views of environmental justice as reflected in the readings, class discussions, and outside research.  The second paper, due November 21, asks students to review the empirical evidence of environmental justice or injustice, and drawing conclusions as to the extent and causes of the problem.  Finally, the third paper, due during the final exam period, asks students to develop and describe their own theory of environmental justice, and apply that theory by recommending and advocating a solution to the issues raised in our examination of the case of Manitoba Hydroelectric.


In addition to these papers, students will be asked each to develop a Web page devoted to their investigation of environmental justice.  The page will contain their research papers, links to other Web sites of interest, and other material as deemed interesting and valuable to the student author.




Semester grades will be determined as a weighted average of paper grades (25% each), the content and construction of the Web site (15%) and individual class participation (10%). 


Instructor Availability:


My office hours this semester are from Monday and Wednesday mornings from 8:45 to 10:00, and  Tuesdays from 3:30 -5:00. I am also available for appointments. As I have small children who go to bed early and as I retire early myself, I prefer that students not call me at home, but leave messages for me on my voice mail (x3358) or on my e-mail.



Readings, Discussion Topics, Activities


Perspectives on (Environmental) Justice

Giovanna DiChiro, “Nature as Community:  The Convergence of Environmental and Social Justice”, in Uncommon Ground: Towards Reinventing Nature, edited by William Cronon (WW Norton, 1995):  298 – 320.

Winona LaDuke, “A Society Based on Conquest Cannot be Sustained,”  forward to  The New Resource Wars, Al Gedicks (Boston:  South End Press) 1993.

Executive Order 12898:



Leah Foushee, North American Water Office




Theories of Justice



Robert Bullard, “Chapter 1: Environmentalism and Social Justice” and “Chapter 2:  Race Class and Environmental Quality” in  Dumping in Dixie (Westview Press 2000):  1 – 36.


Christopher H. Foreman, Jr., Chapter 1, “Challenges,” in The Promise and Peril of Environmental Justice (Brookings, 1998): pp. 1 – 8.


Ann Stewart, Foreign Representative, Pimicikimak Cree


Linda Robyn and David E. Camacho, “Bishigendan akii Respect the Earth,”  in Environmental Injustices, Political Struggles (Duke University Press, 1998):  194 – 209.


Film: Toxic Racism


Steven Hoffman, St. Thomas University


Steven Sandweiss, “The Social Construction of Environmental Justice,” in Environmental Injustices, Political Struggles (Duke University Press, 1998):  31 – 57.


Andrew Dobson, “Environmental Politics and Distributive Justice,” in Justice and the Environment:  Conceptions of Environmental Sustainability and Dimensions of Social Justice (Oxford University Press, 1998): 12 – 30.


David Miller, “Social Justice and Environmental Goods,” in Fairness and Futurity:  Essays on Environmental Sustainability and Social Justice, Andrew Dobson, ed. (Oxford University Press, 1999): 151 – 172.


Examining the Record:  Domestic Evidence

Evan Ringquist, “Environmental Justice:  Normative Concerns and Empirical Evidence” in Environmental Policy in the 1990s: Reform or Reaction? edited by Norman J. Vig, Michael E. Kraft  (CQ Press, 1997): 231 – 254.


Harvey L. White, “Race, Class, and Environmental Hazards,” in Environmental Injustices, Political Struggles (Duke University Press, 1998): 61 – 81.


Interfaith Dialog - Luther Seminary


Interfaith debriefing


Jerry Mitchell,, Deborah Thomas and Susan Cutter (1999). “Dumping in Dixie Revisited:  The Evolution of Environmental Injustices in South Carolina” SSQ 80(2): 229-243.


John Hird and Michael Reese, “The Distribution of Environmental Quality: An Empirical Analysis,” in Social Science Quarterly, Vol 79 (4) December 1998:693-716.


John Hird and Michael Reese, “The Distribution of Environmental Quality: An Empirical Analysis,” in Social Science Quarterly, Vol 79 (4) December 1998:693-716.


Christopher H. Foreman, Jr., Chapter 2, “Foundations,”  in The Promise and Peril of Environmental Justice (Brookings, 1998): pp. 9 – 33.


Examining the Record:  International Evidence

Ignazio Musu, “ Efficiency and Equity in International Environmental Cooperation,” in Ethics and Environmental Policy:  Theory Meets Practice (University of Georgia Press, 1994): 87 – 105.


Joel Simon, “Dumping on the Border,” in Endangered Mexico: An Environment on the Edge (Sierra Club Books, 1997): pp.205-235.








Daniel Bromley, “Chapter 7: Property Rights and Institutional Change,” in Economic Interests and Institutions: The Conceptual Foundations of Public Policy (Basil Blackwell, 1989):  185 – 220.


Gary E. Varner, “Environmental Law and the Eclipse of Land as Private Property,” in Ethics and Environmental Policy:  Theory Meets Practice (University of Georgia Press, 1994):  pp. 142 – 160.


Reforms and Initiatives

Christopher H. Foreman, Jr., Chapter 6, “Prospects,” in The Promise and Peril of Environmental Justice (Brookings, 1998): pp. 1 – 33, 109 - 136.


David E. Camacho, “Environmental Ethics as a Political Choice,” in Environmental Injustices, Political Struggles (Duke University Press, 1998): 210 – 224.