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Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility

by Dorceta Taylor New York University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 352 pages
AU$64.00 NZ$66.96
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From St. Louis to New Orleans, from Baltimore to Oklahoma City, there are poor and minority neighborhoods so beset by pollution that just living in them can be hazardous to your health. Due to entrenched segregation, zoning ordinances that privilege wealthier communities, or because businesses have found the ‘paths of least resistance,’ there are many hazardous waste and toxic facilities in these communities, leading residents to experience health and wellness problems on top of the race and class discrimination most already experience. Taking stock of the recent environmental justice scholarship, Toxic Communities examines the connections among residential segregation, zoning, and exposure to environmental hazards. Renowned environmental sociologist Dorceta Taylor focuses on the locations of hazardous facilities in low-income and minority communities and shows how they have been dumped on, contaminated and exposed.

Drawing on an array of historical and contemporary case studies from across the country, Taylor explores controversies over racially-motivated decisions in zoning laws, eminent domain, government regulation (or lack thereof), and urban renewal. She provides a comprehensive overview of the debate over whether or not there is a link between environmental transgressions and discrimination, drawing a clear picture of the state of the environmental justice field today and where it is going. In doing so, she introduces new concepts and theories for understanding environmental racism that will be essential for environmental justice scholars. A fascinating landmark study, Toxic Communities greatly contributes to the study of race, the environment, and space in the contemporary United States.

List of Acronyms and Abbreviations 
 Introduction: Environmental Justice Claims 
 1 Toxic Exposure: Landmark Cases in the South and the Rise of Environmental Justice Activism
 2 Disproportionate Siting: Claims of Racism and Discrimination
 3 Internal Colonialism: Native American Communities in the West 
 4 Market Dynamics: Residential Mobility, or Who Moves and Who Stays 
 5 Enforcing Environmental Protections: The Legal, Regulatory, and Administrative Contexts 
 6 The Siting Process: Manipulation, Environmental Blackmail, and Enticement 
 7 The Rise of Racial Zoning: Residential Segregation 
 8 The Rise of Racially Restrictive Covenants: Guarding against Infiltration 
 9 Racializing Blight: Urban Renewal, Eminent Domain, and Expulsive Zoning 
 10 Contemporary Housing Discrimination: Does It Still Happen?
 Conclusion: Future Directions of Environmental Justice Research 
About the Author 

"It offers a valuable review of the diverse mechanisms of structural racism that has produced and maintained patterns of residential segregation, spatial exclusion, and environmental injustices in the United States."-PsycCritques

"Dorceta Taylor, a distinguished scholar in the field of environmental sociology, has just published a book that contributes to research on environmental racism in the USA. In Toxic Communities, Taylor surveys long-standing debates in the field of environmental justice and identifies new theoretical and methodological directions for environmental justice researchers."-Urban Studies

"In this excellent assessment of multimethod research, Taylor brings a refreshing emphasis on nuance and accountability to the environmental justice discussion . . . provides a comprehensive, objective, and balanced portrait of environmental justice to date."-Choice

"Well-written and researched."-Olive Branch United

“….a survey of the environmental justice movement which has so crucially challenged white traditions of conservation and the pastoral images of land and ecology that are their hallmarks.”-Art Journal

“Clearly and accessibly written, the book is well suited for a course on environmental justice, environmental sociology, urban studies, or race and ethnicity. It is an essential addition to conversations between environmental justice researchers on how best to move toward theorizing environmental injustices.”-Social Forces

“Dorceta Taylor’s book, Toxic Communities is an intellectually weighty book that elevates the discussion of environmental justice.” 
"An intellectually weighty book that elevates the discussion of environmental justice." 
-Human Ecology

"In Toxic Communities, Dorceta Taylor tackles a vexing question: why don’t people in contaminated communities just move? This highly original book reframes the entire field of environmental justice studies by urging us to focus on the social mechanisms behind the scourge of environmental racism, which relegate people to those spaces and make it nearly impossible for them to move out. Only when we can target those underlying mechanisms will there be any hope of securing a meaningful and lasting environmental justice. Rather than simply demonstrating the fact that people of color are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards and accepting simple explanations for this phenomenon, Taylor goes to the heart of the matter and explores why and how environmental racism remains an enduring wound on the American social landscape. This is the first book to delve so deeply and broadly into the debates concerning environmental racism. Toxic Communities will become the gold standard for the field of environmental justice studies."-David Naguib Pellow,co-author of The Slums of Aspen: Immigrants vs. the Environment in America's Eden

"Toxic Communities is the most comprehensive account to date of why certain communities host toxic facilities and why certain populations are more likely to live in close proximity to those facilities. Taylor not only forthrightly confronts the complex causal processes that shape the uneven distribution of environmental hazards, but she does so with a keen sensitivity to the vast differences among communities, their geographies and their histories. This book deepens our understanding of the phenomenon of environmental (in)justice and promises to be a standard-bearer in the field for a long time to come."-Sheila R. Foster,co-author of From the Ground Up
Dorceta E. Taylor is Professor in the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan, where she also serves as Field of Studies Coordinator for the Environmental Justice program. She graduated from Yale University with doctorates in Sociology and Forestry and Environmental Studies. Her previous books include The Environment and the People in American Cities: 1600s-1900s. Disorder, Inequalty and Social Change, which won the 2010 Allan Schnaiberg Outstanding Publication Award from the Environment and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association.