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Environmental racism

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sociology
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Knox College

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  1. Introduction
  2. Aftermath of the holocaust
  3. The civil rights movement
  4. Barrack Obama's election
  5. The rise of global capitalism
  6. Definition of environmental justice
  7. The environmental justice movement
  8. The goal of the environmental justice movement
  9. Sandra Steingraber's 'Living Downstream'
  10. Conclusion

According to Fredrickson, America was able to largely ignore the ?race question? until the American Revolution. Before the war for independence, Jews were mostly sequestered in ghettos and black people on plantations, so the need for a dominating racial ideology had not yet arisen. However, with the dawning of the Enlightenment and the democratic revolution, the idea that all men are created equal was at the front of the minds of the people. Therefore, some system had to be invented to demote blacks and Jews from the status of ?men? if absolute white rule was to continue uninterrupted.
The American answer to this need was a ?scientific? racism called the ?American School of Ethnology,? which went against the Christian idea that all humans are descended from Adam by positing that the three main races present in the United States at that time, whites, blacks, and Native Americans, were in fact different species with different personality traits and levels of ability. By this logic, all men were still created equal: those who were unequal were not men. This ideology gained popularity in response to the abolitionist movement that began in the 1830's : without the free labor provided by the slaves, the southern cotton market could no longer thrive, and so southern whites had a strong motivation to keep blacks in servitude.

[...] In the final chapter of Living Downstream, Steingraber laments the direction that cancer research and fundraising has taken to address this growing plague: the money and attention goes to treatment, not prevention, despite evidence that cancer treatment never seems to get any more successful no matter how much money we pour into it.[xix] There is a belief in the cancer science community that one's odds of dying from cancer are mostly determined by one's ancestors, a belief that diverts attention from where it needs to be. [...]


[...] Monique Harden, an attorney with the New Orleans-based Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, said that ?Environmental justice means something different in every context.?[xi] Part of the reason the environmental justice movement is now struggling to define itself is that is has suffered under certain inaccurate assumptions, and committed others itself. Pellow discusses the assumption of ecological modernization, the idea that as society evolves ?toward a state where free rational individuals are in control of their own affairs and those of the world,? ?states and industries are improving their environmental performance with remarkable results that benefit the social and natural worlds,?[xii] as a possible cause of environmental injustice: experience has taught us that companies will rarely protect the environment as a part of their debt to society at the expense of making a buck. [...]


[...] This, Rhodes says, is a good start, even though the word fails to acknowledge environmental burdens that appear on the surface to be voluntarily shouldered by marginalized people stuck between a rock and a hard place. In other areas of the world, what people in the Global North might call environmental justice might be called something else, despite having similar strategies and goals. For instance, Pellow says, indigenous peoples may be more likely to frame the issue in terms of land rights or self-determination, while in India, activist Sathyu Sarangi says that social and environmental movements and movements to end racism in the country are rolled into the same cause. [...]

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