I wish to thank all those whom I interviewed for this research for taking the time to share their valuable perspectives; the NSF funded IGERT Program on Biological Invasions at U.C. Davis for research funding; Shawn Bourque, Adrieene Reed Storey Harling, Holly Hays, and Laura Smith for research assistance. I thank James Cramer, Megan Kemple, Lyn Lofland, Salm Stroich, Savanna Fergusen, and the editor and anonymous reviewers for helpful comments in the preparation of this manuscript.
The Politics of Invasive Weed Management: Gender, Race, and Risk Perception in Rural California*
Article first published online: 22 OCT 2009
2007 Rural Sociological Society
Volume 72, Issue 3, pages 450–477, September 2007
How to Cite
Norgaard, K. M. (2007), The Politics of Invasive Weed Management: Gender, Race, and Risk Perception in Rural California. Rural Sociology, 72: 450–477. doi: 10.1526/003601107781799263
- Issue published online: 22 OCT 2009
- Article first published online: 22 OCT 2009
Abstract “Biological invasions” are now recognized as the cause of significant ecological and economic damage. They also raise a series of less visible social issues. Management of invasive species is often a political process raising questions such as who decides which organisms are to be managed, and who benefits or is affected by different management techniques. In a rural region of northern California, the proposed use of herbicides on spotted knapweed sparked an intense social controversy. This research uses participant observation, interviews, and archival material to understand how members of the Karuk Tribe of California, the non-Indian community, and the U.S. Forest Service developed different perceptions of safety and risk regarding herbicide use. I describe interconnected factors that frame the interpretation of risk: institutional trust, proximity to exposure, gender, and race. Gender and race, in turn, form the basis of anti-herbicide mobilization. The larger sociological question highlighted is, who pays the price for species invasions? Use of herbicides on invasive species is increasing. Many people who face increased exposure to herbicides are members of racial minority groups. When the poor or racial minorities face disproportionate exposure, differences in risk perception become matters of environmental justice. This paper discusses the broader social implications of differences in risk perception among communities and land managers.