From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of the Environmental Justice Movement

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When Bill Clinton signed an Executive Order on Environmental Justice in 1994, the phenomenon of environmental racism—the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards, particularly toxic waste dumps and polluting factories, on people of color and low-income communities—gained unprecedented recognition. Behind the President's signature, however, lies a remarkable tale of grassroots activism and political mobilization. Today, thousands of activists in hundreds of locales are fighting for their children, their communities, their quality of life, and their health. From the Ground Up critically examines one of the fastest growing social movements in the United States, the movement for environmental justice. Tracing the movement's roots, Luke Cole and Sheila Foster combine long-time activism with powerful storytelling to provide gripping case studies of communities across the U.S—towns like Kettleman City, California; Chester, Pennsylvania; and Dilkon, Arizona—and their struggles against corporate polluters. The authors effectively use social, economic and legal analysis to illustrate the historical and contemporary causes for environmental racism. Environmental justice struggles, they demonstrate, transform individuals, communities, institutions and even the nation as a whole.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Provides valuable and comprehensive analyses of the driving forces behind environmental injustices. Anyone wanting to know why an environmental justice movement has emerged in this country and what future direction it may take should read this book."

-Paul Mohai,author of Black Environmentalism and Environmental Racism: Reviewing the Evidence

"They assess the effectiveness of the organizing tactics employed, casting particular scrutiny on the courts as agents of social change...The authors have presented concrete examples, all the while making clear that there are no road maps for successful organizing.”

-New York Law Journal

"From the Ground Up presents the history of the environmental justice movement in the best possible way: through the retelling of the individual stories of local communities that have transformed the nation's environmental laws. Both descriptive and reflective, the book is wonderfully evocative of the passions that have maintained the environmental justice movement and that underlie its enormous promise for social change."

-Richard Lazarus,Georgetown University Law School

"A thought-provoking analysis of how grassroots activism from people of color communities is transforming environmental politics. Such activism has brought an important infusion of energy and vision to the pursuit of environmental democracy."

-Charles Lee,principal author of Toxic Waste and Race in the United States

"A fresh and lively treatise on the struggles of ordinary people who are making extraordinary contributions to the environmental and economic justice movement."

-Robert D. Bullard,author of Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality

Cole (director, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation's Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment) and Foster (law, Rutgers University) examine the movement for environmental justice in the United States. Tracing the movement's roots and illustrating the historical and contemporary causes of environmental racism, they combine their analysis with a narrative account of struggles from around the country<-->including those in Kettleman City, California, Chester, Pennsylvania, and Dilkon, Arizona. In so doing, they consider the transformative effects this movement has had on individuals, communities, and environmental policy. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814715376
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2000
  • Series: Critical America Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 379,170
  • Product dimensions: 5.99 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Meet the Author

Luke Cole is Director of the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation's Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment.

Sheila Foster is Associate Professor at Rutgers University School of Law, Camden.

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