Copyright (c) 1999 Tulane Environmental Law Journal
Tulane Environmental Law Journal
MISSISSIPPI RIVER SYMPOSIUM: Building Just, Safe, and Healthy Communities
12 Tul. Envtl. L.J. 373
Robert D. Bullard *
Despite significant improvements in environmental protection over the past several decades, millions of Americans continue to live, work, play, and go to school in unsafe and unhealthy physical environments. 1 Over the years, the dominant environmental protection paradigm has managed, regulated, and distributed risks. The current environmental protection apparatus (1)institutionalizes unequal enforcement, (2)trades human health for profit, (3)places the burden of proof on the "victims" and not the polluting industry, (4)legitimates human exposure to harmful chemicals, pesticides, and hazardous substances, (5)promotes "risky" technologies such as incinerators, (6)exploits the vulnerability of economically and politically disenfranchised communities, (7)subsidizes ecological destruction, (8)creates an industry around risk assessment, (9)delays cleanup actions, and (10)fails to develop pollution prevention as the overarching and dominant strategy. 2
During its near thirty-year history, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not always recognized that many of our government and industry practices, whether intended or unintended, have an adverse impact on poor people and people of color. The EPA was never given the mission of addressing environmental policies and practices that result in unfair, unjust, and inequitable outcomes. The EPA and other agencies are not likely to ask the questions that go to the heart of environmental injustice: What groups are most affected? Why are they affected? Who did it? What can be done to remedy the problem? How can the problem be prevented? Vulnerable communities, populations, and individuals often fall between the regulatory cracks. Growing grassroots community resistance has emerged in response to ...
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