The Quest for Environmental Justice: Human Rights & the Politics of Pollution

This is a talk given by Professor Robert Bullard at UC Santa Barbara in 2006. You will see how relevant his talk is especially given today’s pandemic-inflicted circumstances. It’s 50 minutes but his talk is very engaging and thought-provoking. One issue that’s often discussed in relation to environmental justice is Katrina and how the hurricane influenced Black and poor communities in New Orleans. You will find discussion of that here in this presentation as well.

Deniz Ortactepe

7 Responses to “The Quest for Environmental Justice: Human Rights & the Politics of Pollution

  • Oliver Block
    5 months ago

    Professor Bullard mentions an executive order (EO) that President Clinton signed (in 1994 I think) that required the communities that would be affected by potential pollution generated development to be present and have a say in the final decision. This is a common sense and humane approach but I wonder if that EO was ever turned into a law? I suspect that it wasn’t since this talk was done in 2006 and he didn’t mention the law only the EO which is good for a year and, although it can be extended, it can also be canceled at any time by another president.

  • Rebecca Jot
    5 months ago

    Such interesting, timely questions that Professor Bullard asks: will all complexions get equal protection in case of a pandemic? This presentation brought to mind a documentary I saw a few years ago about the pig farming industry in North Carolina and their primitive way of dealing with the huge quantities of excrement. Black neighborhoods in NC are hit the hardest with the stench.

  • keyue Song
    5 months ago

    The lecture reminded me about a claim from economics that “who pays taxes enjoys the rights and privileges”. This seems like something reasonable in the eyes of neoliberalism, but actually, as an entity, the government may need to take more responsibility for public issues. The environmental problems about the neighborhoods that are assigned as state landfills fall into the systematic discrimination that the quality of the environment, the price of land, the social class of people who live there, the political power, the media attention, etc. are all intertwining and reproducing each other in this issue. The student volunteers and NGOs can make some difference, but it is sad that the systematic “sacrifice” may not be ended by these volunteers.

  • Miranda Doremus- Reznor
    5 months ago

    What struck me about this video is that Professor Bullard poses questions about if a quarantine happens, are people going to have ask if they are being targeted just because they are “on the wrong side of the tracks?” And now in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, we can already see that minoritized communities are indeed more adversely affected because of lack of support and policies that highlight the systemic racism and classism in our country.

  • Joshua Nesmith
    5 months ago

    This video does resonate well with what is currently taking place with COVID-19 and the global pandemic. Environmental sociology and environmental justice are important and should be considered more as the environment is everywhere. One issue that also has been taking place across cities across America is gentrification of neighborhoods. Rental prices increase through gentrification, but many times gentrification takes place in lower socioeconomic neighborhoods resulting in residents no longer being able to live in their communities. Health and other social factors are huge components of environmental justice, which many times are overlooked.

  • Xinxin Liu
    5 months ago

    Keyue’s comment resonates with my thoughts. This video also reminds me of the intersectionality of race, class, and accessibility. As the minoritized populations were put in a situation that cannot access many opportunities in society, many aspects of their life have been affected, such as housing, education, etc.

  • Mia Dunfey
    4 months ago

    Professor Bullard’s question of “do government officials respond differently to emergencies in people of color communities and White communities” really stood out to me. It’s not just the response but also the language that we use to describe these events. I thought of the difference between “opioid epidemic” which tended to affect suburban/rural White populations and “heroin addiction” which typically affected urban Black populations. Epidemic indicates a disease that is hurting people that needs to be cured while addiction carries a stigma that it is that individual’s fault.

    That question also made me think of Hurricane Katrina. There has been much criticism over the governments response and many believe that if the 9th Ward had been a predominantly white neighborhood, the response would have been quick and efficient. I remember watching when Kanye West said, “George Bush does not care about Black people” and that stunned me. I was still pretty young at the time and didn’t understand the full implications of the comment but it has definitely stuck with me.

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