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Help Us Map Environmental Justice Conflicts in the United States

2013 August 2


By Alejandro Colsa, Bernadette Grafton, Katy Hintzen, and Sara Orvis

As students at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and the Environment we consider ourselves lucky to be part of an institution that has played a major role in the historic evolution of the United States environmental justice movement. Coming from different backgrounds, the four of us have found environmental justice to be a unifying passion.


Click to find out more about the EJOLT Project

When we first encountered the Environmental Justice Organizations, Liability and Trade (EJOLT) project we recognized its potential to further global collaboration among EJ activists and scholars. The EJOLT project allows us to explore a wide array of environmental justice issues, giving us a richer understanding of what environmental justice is and how it’s been manifested in the United States. At the same time, EJOLT provides us with the opportunity to be part of an exciting new movement towards increased international collaboration in environmental justice.

EJOLT is an international project that aims to map environmental justice conflicts around the world. EJOLT has reported on and analyzed environmental conflicts in more than 60 countries, including India, Ecuador, Mexico, and South Africa. Cases like the Map of Environmental Injustices in Turkey have made headlines in mainstream media. However, environmental justice cases in the U.S. have not yet been integrated into this international effort.

With the help of our two academic advisors, Professor Rebecca Hardin and Professor Paul Mohai, we reached out to the EJOLT project coordinator Professor Joan Martinez Alier and offered to spearhead an effort to identify and analyze 40 influential U.S. environmental justice case studies to contribute to EJOLT.

This is where we need your help! Choosing 40 case studies to represent the environmental justice movement and its historical development in the United States is a monumental task. We decided to create a public survey that engages the wider U.S. environmental justice community and harnesses the expertise of scholars, activists, and citizens like you to help determine which case studies are included in this database.

We need your help identifying which conflicts should be included in this project. If you would like to participate, please fill out our 5-to-10 minute survey. When answering the following questions, please keep in mind that we are not asking you to rank the case studies. All of the case studies have been divided into 10 categories defined by EJOLT.  Each category also provides an option to write-in any case studies that are not in this survey, but you feel should be included.

In order to make the survey shorter and more manageable, we have created two survey options. If you were born on a day ending with an even number please use this survey link, and if you were born on a day ending with an odd number please use this survey link. The survey will only be open through August 23rd, so make sure and take soon. Thanks for your collaboration!

About the authors:

Alejandro Colsa is a Master’s student at the University of Michigan SNRE specializing in Environmental Justice. After spending some years learning how Environmental Justice is understood and studied in Europe, this Spanish graduate student has received a Fulbright scholarship to conduct research and study how the environmental justice movement was originated in the United States and how it can be framed within the broader and more international environmental justice movement, paying special attention to the role played by strong community activism.

Bernadette Grafton is a Master’s student at the University of Michigan SNRE specializing in Behavior, Education, and Communication. She has a strong interest in brownfield redevelopment and community engagement that has led her to an understanding of the tight relationship between brownfields and environmental justice issues, primarily because of the location of many brownfield sites.   

Katy Hintzen is a Master’s student at the University of Michigan SNRE specializing in Environmental Policy and Planning and Environmental Justice. Her interest in studying the intersections between public policy and community activism stem from her time as a Peace Corps volunteer working on environmental conservation issues in the Ecuadorian Amazon.        

Sara Orvis is a Master’s student at the University of Michigan SNRE specializing in Environmental Justice. She is interested in the unique problems associated with rural environmental justice especially surrounding Indian Nations culture and traditions and the government to government relationships affect the mitigation of environmental justice sources. 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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15 Responses leave one →
  1. Jane permalink
    August 2, 2013

    I had no idea that this initiative was happening. What a great idea to highlight the injustices happening in this country and around the world. Thank you for this information.


  2. Devorah permalink
    August 3, 2013

    I’m sharing this great initiative with my network. When will a decision be made on the 40 cases?

    • Alejandro Colsa permalink
      August 7, 2013

      Thanks Devorah for sharing our project with your network! We really appreciate it! The survey will be closed on August 23rd and once we analyze and weight the responses we will make a final decision no later than September 15th.

  3. Ernest Grolimund permalink
    August 6, 2013

    See court case. Soldano v (neighbor), Michigan, 2009 +/-. Bing Search Outdoor Wood Boiler Health Assesment, Jackson County, Michigan, ATSDR, Michigan DHHS, Jackson County Health Dept.

    New safe dose for wood smoke pm2.5 at 180 mcg/m3,hr upheld by court. EPA report by Dr Brown cited as best science for health problems from all wood smoke. Derived from EPA and ATSDR Wildfire Smoke guidelines.

    Shows constitutional rights violated by an owb. Further extension to stoves and fireplaces shows EPA BACT rules for NSPS stds are unsafe, dangerous. Shows way to control black soot for climate change. Follow U.N. consensus science to rapidly phase out all cordwood burning in developed countries to stop and ptrevent health problems as rqd by DHHS essential services policy and reduce climate forcing soot and reduce mercury destroying fish food supply.

  4. Guy Archibald permalink
    August 6, 2013

    In Alaska where many villages get up to 80% of their calories from the ocean through subsistence and cultural practices, the Fish Consumption Value is the lowest in the Nation at 6.5 grams, or 12 fish meals a year per person. Alaska has the highest fish consumption in the US. Oregon’s fish consumption value is 170 grams.

    The Fish Consumption Value is used to set water quality limits on bioaccumulative heavy metals such as lead, mercury, or selenium under human health criteria. An arbitrarily low fish consumption value allows industry to discharge toxins at dangerous levels. Alaska’s state government is pro-development and is allowing the destruction of salmon streams communities depend on for short term gains from mining.

    The predominately Alaska Native population, especially small children and women of child-bearing years in the villages are especially at risk. So far the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has refused to change the FCV.

  5. Kim permalink
    August 7, 2013

    I’m glad that the University of Michigan has taken on this project. I know many people have said this but continue to be the go to blog for real work happening in communities. I hope the other blogs at EPA will someday follow your lead and highlight projects that people care about.

  6. Kim permalink
    August 7, 2013

    48217 (Marathon Refinery) in Detroit would be a case I would choose along with Mossville, Louisiana both of these would make excellent case studies.

  7. Celeste Murphy Greene permalink
    August 7, 2013

    This is a wonderful idea, but not all cases are location specific. For example, lots of my research on EJ focuses on migrant farm workers, which views EJ from the occupational perspective rather than the location perspective. However, if a case must be used, try researching migrant farm workers in South Florida, Palm Beach and Collier Counties. This group of individuals still suffers from environmental injustice.

  8. Andrea Guajardo permalink
    August 7, 2013

    In the San Luis Valley in south central Colorado. Unique land tenure creates an intense environment for ethnic minorities as well as folks living below the Federal poverty level. These are also ancestral tribal lands to many groups. There are also Conversos from the Spanish Inquisition. Great history, unique social and environmental justice concerns.

  9. Alejandro Colsa permalink
    August 7, 2013

    From the EJOLT-US team, we would like to thank all of you for the support and enthusiasm showed about our project. We really appreciate your suggestions about specific case studies that should be included in this international effort. We will definitely consider them when making a decision about which cases should be included in the final project.

    Special thanks to all of you that have already completed the survey. A high response rate will increase the legitimacy of our final decision so thanks for your collaboration!

    The surveys will be open for 2 more weeks so please make sure you can take 5-10 minute of your summer time and help us have a supported decision.

  10. Marvin S. Robinson, II permalink
    August 8, 2013

    Though the journey has and continues to be rough and known cross-roads, the common average everyday residents continue to be over DOMINATED by super complex government LANGUAGE and Industry leaders clout over the HUMANITY of HUMAN Health: particularly among the poor.
    The frenzy of ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE continues to be plagued by a double-edged sword of Race and CLASSISM: people looking and being awarded GRANTS, ‘claiming to be HELPING the very same COMMUNITIES, that endure the pressures of TOXIC WASTE and lack of access to the thresholds of POWER with Jane and Johnny come latelys, all for the sake of just another grant- to put in their bank accounts.
    NO one seems to ever address the cruelty of back-lash and retailiation, vindictive revenge for those who really tried to get the issues of TOXIC HAZ-WASTE remediated; then other persons and parties were and have been allowed to form and PRETEND they are the COMMUNITY, so long’ they get a GRANT from the E.P.A. or- other federal government agencies.
    The other BARRIER is the “ANTI-LOBBYING ACT”, if you can figure out how to get a E.P.A. ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE grant, who are bound- FORBIDDEN to ever complain about that agency: when in fact there are so many issues of ToXIC WASTE confronting the EXTREME POVERTY in our area, we are just now discussing, that we are being allowed to USRPASS, just being placed into forced HOME-LESSNESS; and instead rapidly and silent becoming 21st century REFUGEES in our country, county and community; even VETERANS, because NO ONE is addressing, nor responding to our critical mass of vicious chemigation, nor the land that the local government is removing he UNEPLOYED Veterans from our homes with OVER-EXAGGERATED Appraisals on Personal Property real estate with TOXIC WASTE completely surrounding the only homes we know of; and the most EXPENSIVE UTILITY services in the UNITED STATES and NO one is coming to stop them.
    ALL the EXTREME POVERTY in our area can do is call the 24 hour a day PRAYER Hotline numbers and keep optimistic deep inside our spiritual hearts’. THANKS-
    Marvin S. Robinson, II
    Quindaro Ruins / Underground Railroad- Exercise 2013

  11. Cesar permalink
    August 8, 2013

    This is a great idea! I have often wondered if there was a universal list/cases of both international and domestic Environmental Justice issues.


  12. Jerri permalink
    August 10, 2013

    My vote would be for Chester Pennsylvania. A great example of community activism addressing an egregious situation.

  13. Cesar permalink
    August 12, 2013

    I had a slow weekend, so I took the time to read almost all of your blogs and I have to say that you all are doing a good job. I looked at two of the other blog sites that EPA has and there content is not nearly as engaging.


  14. Timothy Jakes permalink
    August 18, 2013

    Identifying the worst environmental justice cases is a great idea, officials then will have no excuses for not focusing the resources in these issues.

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