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The Attraction of Race, Class, and Poverty for Pro-Business’ Choice in Undesirable Land Usage

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  1. Abstract
  2. The Attraction of Race, Class, and Poverty on Pro-Business' Choice for Undesirable Land Usage
  3. Environmental racism as a subcategory of environmental justice
    1. What came first: propagation of undesirable land usage or poor neighborhoods of color?
    2. Environmental health disparities and other health conscious green based issues
    3. Native Americans and Toxic Waste
    4. A synopsis of legal implications and actions involving latent effects of environmental harms
  4. Concluding remarks

The primary focus of the term paper is to explore why communities of color and other related politico-social neighborhoods are seemingly fair game for pro-business usage of these lands as toxic dump sites or for other environmentally harmful industries. While it seems logical that political, economic, and cultural forces influence, and at times, inhibit efforts to respond to human environmental crises (Johnston 1995:111), these issues do not justify the deliberate imposition of environmental damage upon unsuspecting citizens or their respective communities. For sure, environmental crimes can be both diverse in nature and in the harm they cause, even to the extent that some victims of environmental crime may be miles removed from the offenders who victimize them (Shover and Routhe 2005:323-24). In sum, discussions pertaining to environmental damage and vulnerable social groups are at best hotly contested and controversial. Time alone will tell what direction or which path environmental justice professionals will take in alleviating the social harms caused by oppressive governmental actions and corporate profiting.

What often complicates legal action concerning environmental harm stems from loaded publications by some academics, like Vicki Been, of the New York University of Law, arguing that studies on locally undesirable land usage, that have been disproportionately sited in poor and minority neighborhoods, are methodologically flawed (Been 1994:1384-86). She asserts that the research fails to prove claims that minority communities bear the brunt of undesirable land usage as a result of racism and classism.

[...] Natural resources are taken for granted and waste additions are minimized, often with the effect of passing on these undesirable outcomes to virtually any group that poses little threat to the wants or needs of this ?expansionist? association. In sum, it is the institutional racism and class inequality that puts the most vulnerable groups, such as Native Americans, ethnic and minority groups, and the poor (Hooks and Smith 2004) at a disproportionate risk for environmental abuses. To this end, perhaps the only real recourse of action for these vulnerable populations is to fight back with legal sanctions. [...]

[...] For instance, Professor Been (1994), of the New York University of law, acknowledges that locally undesirable land use (LULU)[1] disproportionately pertains more so to communities of people of color and to those districts poorer than most other neighborhoods. She argues that efforts to address this disparity are hindered by the lack of data of which came first: people of color and poor neighborhoods or the locally undesirable land usage (p. 1406). In other words, Been argues that if the neighborhoods were heavily populated by people of color or were already poor at the time siting decisions were made, then an inference can be made that the siting process held a disproportionate effect upon the ethnic or impoverished neighborhood (pp. [...]

[...] For sure, environmental crimes can be both diverse in nature and in the harm they cause, even to the extent that some victims of environmental crime may be miles removed from the offenders who victimize them (Shover and Routhe 2005:323-24). Moreover, years may have passed from the time an offender released an environmental insult into the environment to the moment when the victim began to experience symptoms (as can be the case with cancer victims). Shover and Routhe (2005) note that the likelihood of an offender affecting relatively distant victims is not far fetched, especially when negligently or criminally discharged gases are released into the air, as airborne particles can travel great distances. [...]

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