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Pesticide Drift and the Pursuit of Environmental Justice

Pesticide Drift and the Pursuit of Environmental Justice

Jill Lindsey Harrison
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Pesticide Drift and the Pursuit of Environmental Justice
    Book Description:

    The widespread but virtually invisible problem of pesticide drift--the airborne movement of agricultural pesticides into residential areas--has fueled grassroots activism from Maine to Hawaii. Pesticide drift accidents have terrified and sickened many living in the country's most marginalized and vulnerable communities. In this book, Jill Lindsey Harrison considers political conflicts over pesticide drift in California, using them to illuminate the broader problem and its potential solutions. The fact that pesticide pollution and illnesses associated with it disproportionately affect the poor and the powerless raises questions of environmental justice (and political injustice). Despite California's impressive record of environmental protection, massive pesticide regulatory apparatus, and booming organic farming industry, pesticide-related accidents and illnesses continue unabated. To unpack this conundrum, Harrison examines the conceptions of justice that increasingly shape environmental politics and finds that California's agricultural industry, regulators, and pesticide drift activists hold different, and conflicting, notions of what justice looks like. Drawing on her own extensive ethnographic research as well as in-depth interviews with regulators, activists, scientists, and public health practitioners, Harrison examines the ways industry, regulatory agencies, and different kinds of activists address pesticide drift, connecting their efforts to communitarian and libertarian conceptions of justice. The approach taken by pesticide drift activists, she finds, not only critiques theories of justice undergirding mainstream sustainable-agriculture activism, but also offers an entirely new notion of what justice means. To solve seemingly intractable environmental problems such as pesticide drift, Harrison argues, we need a different kind of environmental justice. She proposes the precautionary principle as a framework for effectively and justly addressing environmental inequities in the everyday work of environmental regulatory institutions.The hardcover edition does not include a dust jacket.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-29876-6
    Subjects: Environmental Science, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Series Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)

    I am pleased to present the sixth book in the Food, Health, and the Environment series. This series explores the global and local dimensions of food systems, and examines issues of access, justice, and environmental and community well-being. It includes books that focus on the way food is grown, processed, manufactured, distributed, sold, and consumed. Among the matters addressed are what foods are available to communities and individuals, how those foods are obtained, and what health and environmental factors are embedded in food system choices and outcomes. The series not only looks at food security and well-being but also regional,...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. 1 Introducing Environmental Justices
    (pp. 1-24)

    In the past forty years, the environmental movement has radically transformed how we think about the interrelationships between social and ecological systems. Rachel Carson’sSilent Spring, published in 1962, was a crucial moment in the rise of environmental politics, putting a trenchant and scientific critique of the disastrous impacts of “modern” chemical technologies into engaging prose that resonated with the general public. The environmental justice (EJ) movement that has emerged and grown since the 1980s has pushed this critique further, arguing that meaningfully confronting environmental problems requires attention to the ways that they shape the lives of some social groups...

  7. 2 Assessing the Scope and Severity of Pesticide Drift
    (pp. 25-50)

    In this chapter, I illustrate why I find pesticide drift to be an egregious problem worthy of critical investigation. To do this, I showcase a wide array of technical evidence of pesticide illness and drift. Understanding the scope of pesticide drift requires that we evaluate the various strengths and weaknesses of those technical data explicitly in terms of the broader social context in which they were collected and by which they are profoundly shaped. I therefore start the chapter with an overview description of California agriculture—paying particular attention to the technological, cultural, and social structures that give rise to...

  8. 3 The Crop Protection Industry
    (pp. 51-84)

    Countless writers have described California’s pivotal role in the emergence of the highly specialized form of growing food and fiber that we refer to as conventional, modern, or industrial agriculture.¹ As historian Steven Stoll points out, the exceptionally productive nature of California agriculture does not stem as much from any sort of “natural advantage” as it does from the deliberate work of many investors, researchers, and political leaders.² California agriculture underwent particularly significant changes in the 1880s, as capitalist investors transformed the state’s agricultural industry from one dominated by wheat to a powerhouse of high-value, resource-intensive, specialty fruit production. These...

  9. 4 The Environmental Regulatory State
    (pp. 85-144)

    As the preceding chapter showed, industries are not able to effectively control problems like pesticide drift on their own. State institutions are needed to serve that function. In this chapter, I discuss the ways that government agencies have intervened into agricultural pesticide use. California and federal pesticide regulatory agencies are some of the most advanced in the world. Yet the case of pesticide drift and illness presented in chapter 2 raises questions about how well regulatory agencies control pesticide drift. This chapter takes on this task. Through describing the history of pesticide regulation in the United States, I identify the...

  10. 5 The Alternative Agrifood Movement
    (pp. 145-186)

    Industry and the state are not, of course, the only actors who play a role in addressing agrifood system problems like pesticide drift. Over the past fifty years, countless individuals and organizations have endeavored to change the agrifood system—to bring critical attention to the failures of both industry and the state to adequately confront the extraordinary array of social inequalities along with the environmental problems that stem from the practices, technologies, and networks through which food is produced, processed, distributed, and sold. These activists also work to constructively reform many of these problematic practices, technologies, and networks, and promote...

  11. 6 Conclusion: Taking Justice Seriously
    (pp. 187-204)

    Pesticide drift is like so many environmental problems today: diffuse, elusive, hazardous, and invisible. As demonstrated by news reports of pesticide exposure in as far-reaching places as the United Kingdom, the Philippines, and Hawaii as well as reports from the World Health Organization and others, pesticide drift is a global problem. Residents of agricultural areas live in a toxic soup, exposed to innumerable, dangerous chemical pesticides on a daily basis. Formally trained experts and laypeople alike give us a wide range of compelling evidence to consider pesticide drift egregious, pervasive, and worthy of serious attention. We find ourselves shocked and...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 205-234)
  13. References
    (pp. 235-268)
  14. Index
    (pp. 269-277)