Research AreasEnvironmental and Energy EconomicsNatural AssetsEnvironmental Justice

Natural Assets Project

Environmental justice

In the United States and around the world, a rising movement for environmental justice is fighting against the unjust burdens of pollution and natural-resource depletion often imposed on low-income people, communities of color, and politically disenfranchised groups.

By asserting the basic right to a clean and safe environment, the environmental justice (EJ) movement seeks to re-appropriate rights to air and water that have been captured and abused by polluters. In so doing, the movement aims to build the natural assets of communities.

The EJ movement demonstrates that there is no inherent contradiction between the goals of environmental protection and poverty reduction. On the contrary, pursuit of these two goals not only can go hand-in-hand, but sometimes must.

  • Environmental protection : Instead of the parochial slogan, “Not in my backyard,” the EJ movement raises the banner: “Not in anybody's backyard.” Once environmental costs can no longer be displaced to sacrifice zones – pollution and resource degradation “hot spots” out of sight of the wealthy and powerful –demand for environmental protection grows stronger.
  • Poverty reduction : Access to clean air and water translates into better health, lower medical expenses, fewer days lost from work due to illness and the need to care for sick dependents, and higher property values. And the social capital built in EJ struggles can be used in other arenas, such as community efforts to get better schools and access to other public goods.

The Natural Assets Project supports the environmental justice movement by conducting research on the distribution of environmental burdens; by providing access to information on toxic pollutants; and by documenting successful strategies for reclaiming rights to clean air, water, and lands.

Working papers on environmental justice

Ash, Michael and Boyce, James, "Measuring Corporate Environmental Justice Performance," 2008, Working Paper Number 186.

Ash, Michael, and T. Robert Fetter, “Who Lives on the Wrong Side of the Environmental Tracks? Evidence From the EPA's Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators Model,” 2002, Working Paper Number 50 .

Bouwes, Nicolaas W., Steven M. Hassur, and Mark D. Shapiro, “Empowerment Through Risk-Related Information: EPA's Risk Screening Environmental Indicators Project,” 2001, Working Paper Number 18 .

Dixon, K.A., “Reclaiming Brownfields: From Corporate Liability to Community Asset,” 2001, Working Paper Number 10 .

Pastor, Manuel, “Building Social Capital to Protect Natural Capital: The Quest for Environmental Justice,” 2001, Working Paper Number 11 .

Pastor, Manuel, “Environmental Justice: Reflections from the United States,” 2003, International Conference on Natural Assets, Conference Paper Number 1.

Templet, Paul H., “Defending the Public Domain: Pollution, Subsidies and Poverty,” 2001, Working Paper Number 12 .

Additional resources:

Corporate Toxics Information Project

The New Environmental Activists

Links to other web-based EJ resources