Social Justice Research

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 405–421 | Cite as

The Evolving Structure of the Environmental Justice Movement in the United States: New Models for Democratic Decision-Making

  • Daniel Faber
  • Deborah McCarthy


Over the last two decades in the United States, mainstream environmental organizations have reduced, rather than increased, democratic participation by citizens in environmental problem-solving. The environmental justice movement, on the other hand, has served to enlarge the constituency of the environmental movement by incorporating poorer communities and oppressed people of color into environmental decision making process; build community capacity by developing campaigns and projects that address the common links between various social and environmental problems; and facilitate community empowerment by emphasizing grassroots organizing over advocacy. This paper outlines the different components in the environmental justice movement. It is our contention that if researchers and policymakers continue to conceive of the ecological crisis as a collection of unrelated problems, then it is possible that some combination of regulations, incentives, and technical innovations can keep pollution and resource destruction at “tolerable” levels for more affluent socioeconomic populations. However, poor working class communities and people of color which lack the political–economic resources to defend themselves will continue to suffer the worst abuses. However, if the interdependency of issues is emphasized as advocated by the environmental justice movement, then a transformative environmental politics can be invented.

ecological democracy environmental justice environmental policy social movements 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel Faber
    • 1
  • Deborah McCarthy
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyNortheastern UniversityBoston
  2. 2.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyCollege of CharlestonCharleston

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