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Global Environmental Justice: A Review of the Literature (April 2018): History

By Robert C. Robinson


In addition to a background in the theories of justice, an informed position on this topic requires an understanding of the literature on the history of environmental justice and the ecological movement. An ideal place to start is Gordon Walker’s Environmental Justice: Concepts, Evidence and Politics. Walker argues, as this author will, that in each space he considers—including research, policy development, and activism—inequalities in impacts, vulnerabilities, and responsibilities can be found. A similar, though somewhat older, historical perspective can be found in Clifford Rechtschaffen and Eileen Gauna’s Environmental Justice: Law, Policy, and Regulation. In addition to its historical treatment of the subject of environmental justice, this title has the added benefit of course notes, case studies, and other teaching resources that make it a valuable classroom tool on the subject. (A third edition of this text, overseen with a somewhat closer editorial eye, would make for an extremely valuable addition to the field.) Finally, in Hazards, Vulnerability and Environmental Justice, Susan Cutter, a leading expert in the field, collects thirty years of essays on the topics of climate change, natural disasters, and their impacts on the poor and vulnerable in the United States and around the world. Cutter is a geographer, and her analysis leans heavily on data-driven analytics, but her arguments will resonate with researchers and students across a range of disciplines.