Erin E. Stamper

Project title: Characterizing Community Responses to Environmental Injustice in South Park: Resources and Recommendations for the South Seattle Interagency Environmental Justice Workgroup

Degree: MPH | Program: Environmental and Occupational Health (EOH) | Project type: Thesis/Dissertation
Completed in: 2009


Enviromental Justice (EJ) is the value that calls for the equitable distribution of environmental burdens across populations and equitable access to health-promoting protections, regardless of region, ethnic background, or socioeconomic position (EPA 2009). Bryant (1995) take this concept further, stating that "Environmental Justice is supported by decent paying and safejobs; quality schools and recreation; decent housing and adequate healthcare; democratic decision-making and personal empowerment; and communities free of violence, drugs, and poverty" (p6). Whether taken narrowly or broadly in definition, the goal of environmental justice is to protect the quality and dignity of life.

The movement for Environmental Justice was born from the civil rights and environmental movements of the 1960's and 1970's. However, its mission was galvanized in 1982, with the widespread protest and subsequent lawsuit and cleanup in respnse to the dumping of hundreds of cubic yards of polychlorinated biphenyl-contaminated soil in a minorty-dense area in Warren county, North Carolina (Pinderhughes 1996, Doyle, 1994). The United Church of Chriist Commission for Racial Justice then published the seminal article, "Toxic Waste and Race" five years later, which specified the extent of the injustices that many communities of color face (United Church of Christ 1987). This received federal attention, and in 1994, President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 12898, mandating the federal government's responsibility to address Environmental Justice (Clinton 1994). Despite this history, and corresponding action at the regional and local levels, environmental injustices prevail in many areas.

Industrial facilities, ports and major roadways are frequently concentrated in certain geographical areas, effectively concentrating consequential, theoretical health-related risks. Frequently, these areas also house high proportions of low socioeconomic and minority populations, from home English may not be the primary language spoken (Smedley et al 2008). This phenomenon is relevant to Seattle.