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Toxic Communities

Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility

Dorceta E. Taylor
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Toxic Communities
    Book Description:

    From St. Louis to New Orleans, from Baltimore to Oklahoma City, there are poor and minority neighborhoods so beset by pollution that just living in them can be hazardous to your health. Due to entrenched segregation, zoning ordinances that privilege wealthier communities, or because businesses have found the paths of least resistance, there are many hazardous waste and toxic facilities in these communities, leading residents to experience health and wellness problems on top of the race and class discrimination most already experience. Taking stock of the recent environmental justice scholarship,Toxic Communitiesexamines the connections among residential segregation, zoning, and exposure to environmental hazards. Renowned environmental sociologist Dorceta Taylor focuses on the locations of hazardous facilities in low-income and minority communities and shows how they have been dumped on, contaminated and exposed.Drawing on an array of historical and contemporary case studies from across the country, Taylor explores controversies over racially-motivated decisions in zoning laws, eminent domain, government regulation (or lack thereof), and urban renewal. She provides a comprehensive overview of the debate over whether or not there is a link between environmental transgressions and discrimination, drawing a clear picture of the state of the environmental justice field today and where it is going. In doing so, she introduces new concepts and theories for understanding environmental racism that will be essential for environmental justice scholars. A fascinating landmark study,Toxic Communitiesgreatly contributes to the study of race, the environment, and space in the contemporary United States.

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-0515-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Acronyms and Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction: Environmental Justice Claims
    (pp. 1-5)

    Two of the most controversial claims of the environmental justice movement (EJM) are the assertions that hazardous facilities are concentrated in minority and low-income communities in the United States and that those communities are exposed to inordinate amounts of environmental hazards. These claims are often used to spur mobilization around environmental issues in such communities. Though I have elsewhere (2009) documented a long history of noxious and hazardous facilities being located within or close to minority and low-income communities and evidence of minority environmental activism that predates the twentieth century, it is only in the past three decades that a...

  6. 1 Toxic Exposure: Landmark Cases in the South and the Rise of Environmental Justice Activism
    (pp. 6-32)

    As minorities grew increasingly concerned about exposure to environmental hazards in the late 1970s and early 1980s, two events led them to consider the broader implications of living in close proximity to hazardous industrial facilities. These were the contamination of the waterways around Triana, Alabama, with pesticides from a manufacturing facility and the siting of a hazardous waste landfill in Warren County, North Carolina. A third region—Cancer Alley in Louisiana—is also discussed in this chapter because of its significance in amplifying awareness of environmental hazards in minority communities. This chapter shows how rural communities played an important role...

  7. 2 Disproportionate Siting: Claims of Racism and Discrimination
    (pp. 33-46)

    This book examines common claims made in EJ cases. It organizes the theses used to explain the claims about exposure to environmental hazards into seven major categories (see figure 2.1). It discusses the underlying assumptions of each thesis and traces the evolution of the research and arguments related to each one. The book also places these arguments and assumptions in historical context.

    An early and oft-used explanation for exposure to environmental hazards is racial and class discrimination. Proponents of this thesis argue that hazardous facilities are disproportionately located in minority and low-income areas and that these patterns are the result...

  8. 3 Internal Colonialism: Native American Communities in the West
    (pp. 47-68)

    EJ activists contend that some parts of the country, such as Appalachia, the South, the Southwest, and Native American reservations, are seen and treated as internal colonies when it comes to the extraction and processing of hazardous materials, the operation of hazardous industrial facilities, and the exposure of residents to dangerous environmental conditions. They contend that companies seek out and locate their facilities in these areas because they have high unemployment and low wages and are rich in resources that can be extracted and processed. These same communities are also sought out as sites for hazardous extraction, manufacturing processes, and...

  9. 4 Market Dynamics: Residential Mobility, or Who Moves and Who Stays
    (pp. 69-97)

    Researchers in the EJ field have offered a range of theses to explain the siting patterns of hazardous facilities and the exposure to dangerous environmental conditions that are discussed in this chapter under the general heading of market dynamics. The decision making and theeconomic behaviorof corporate actors and community residents is at the core of these arguments. This aspect of EJ research focuses on the following questions: (1) What are the current demographic characteristics of communities hosting hazardous facilities? (2) What were the demographic characteristics of the host community at the time the facility was sited? (3) How...

  10. 5 Enforcing Environmental Protections: The Legal, Regulatory, and Administrative Contexts
    (pp. 98-122)

    Activists and policy analysts contend that the context in which EJ cases are adjudicated, regulated, and administered has significant impacts on outcomes. Ergo, this chapter focuses on the ways in which the legal and regulatory systems as well as the administration of environmental affairs affect cases related to facility siting and exposure to hazards.

    The Constitution’s commerce clause is one of the most effective weapons that waste management companies wield to force communities to accept hazardous wastes or to prevent jurisdictions from developing or enforcing waste regulations that are more stringent than the federal ones. Waste management companies have invoked...

  11. 6 The Siting Process: Manipulation, Environmental Blackmail, and Enticement
    (pp. 123-145)

    This chapter examines five additional factors that can help account for the prevalence of hazardous facilities in minority communities:

    1. Unique physical characteristics of the landscape of host communities

    2. Manipulation of residents of host communities

    3. Environmental blackmail

    4. Enticement of host communities

    5. Host communities inviting hazardous facilities in

    The geomorphology of a site is an important consideration in the siting of landfills and other industrial facilities. To counter the charge of discrimination, government agencies, politicians, and waste management industries sometimes contend that sites were chosen not because of the racial composition of the community but because of the sites’geological formations.


  12. 7 The Rise of Racial Zoning: Residential Segregation
    (pp. 147-191)

    Much of the existing EJ research identifies aspects of but does not fully explicate the complex patterns of residential inequalities that characterize urban and rural areas. This is the case because regression models and spatial analyses, particularly those conducted at large scales (national and regional), are limited in their ability to unmask the complex factors that influence population shifts in particular cities and towns. The EJ research is also limited by the questions that scholars ask and explore. That is, if one simply asks the question,Who came first, the noxious facility or the minorities? one gets an answer that...

  13. 8 The Rise of Racially Restrictive Covenants: Guarding against Infiltration
    (pp. 192-227)

    Restrictive covenants are used by developers and individual property owners to control land uses and occupancy. Among other things, they have been used to segregate communities and forestall the siting of commercial and industrial facilities in upscale residential neighborhoods. Despite their widespread use and importance, EJ scholars have ignored the impact these instruments have on residential patterns, the siting of industrial and manufacturing facilities, and the exposure to environmental hazards in cities.

    Despite the many judicial rulings against racial segregation ordinances, these decisions did not affect theprivate agreementsthat homeowners entered into among themselves to create and preserve racially...

  14. 9 Racializing Blight: Urban Renewal, Eminent Domain, and Expulsive Zoning
    (pp. 228-261)

    Eminent domain is often used in tandem with rezoning, urban renewal, and other economic development initiatives to reshape cities and influence residential patterns. Its use has significant influence on determining who lives where in cities. Indeed, the use of eminent domain can result in the expulsion of minorities and low-income residents from communities. Though the use of eminent domain has great implications for EJ research and activism—in terms of how its use impacts minorities and low-income residents—little attention has been paid to this process by EJ researchers.

    In America, government’s use of eminent domain to take private property...

  15. 10 Contemporary Housing Discrimination: Does It Still Happen?
    (pp. 262-278)

    In a 1972 study of segregation of African Americans in Pittsburgh, Darden concluded that regardless of income, Blacks experienced great difficulty renting or buying homes in nonsegregated areas. Is this still the case? The Black population is still rising, and Blacks continue to be primarily urban dwellers. The Hispanic population is rising rapidly. Though smaller than the aforementioned groups, the Asian and Native American populations are rising too. Although residential segregation is declining, Blacks still live in highly segregated communities in many cities (U.S. Census Bureau, 2004). But has thelevel of residential segregationchanged? Studies of residential segregation have...

  16. Conclusion: Future Directions of Environmental Justice Research
    (pp. 279-282)

    This book has examined the question of why minorities may not move from neighborhoods that host noxious facilities. In so doing, it has discussed several theories used to explain the prevalence of hazardous facilities in minority communities. It has also reviewed hundreds of studies that can help us understand this phenomenon. The foregoing discussions lead me to conclude that the aspects of EJ research dealing with noxious facilities and exposure to environmental hazards are robust and evolving rapidly. Nonetheless, there are many areas where this field of study needs to make adaptations.

    There is no question that spatial analyses have...

    (pp. 283-332)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 333-342)
    (pp. 343-343)