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Environmental Justice at the Crossroads

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Abstract

The field of environmental justice emerged at a crossroads of social movements, public policy, and academic research – what we call environmental justice praxis. Now, the field finds itself again at a crossroads as it expands to address new populations, problems, and places. In this article, we first outline the competing definitions of the problems of environmental inequality and environmental racism from the perspective of social movements, policy, and research. Second, we identify the expansion of the field in two key areas: new issues and constituencies and new places and sites of analysis – specifically the relationship between the local and the global. This expansion leads to increasingly sophisticated spatial methodologies and social theories to examine problems of environmental injustice. Finally, we identify three promising trends in the field: refining the mechanisms and processes of environmental injustice, a renewed focus on the state and the environment as key actors, and a revitalized focus on the interactive and continually evolving relationship between scholarship and social movements.

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