Key features of three environmental justice theories

Race-based EJPlace-based EJIndigenous EJ
  • Racial discrimination in environmental policy-making and enforcement of regulations and laws.

  • The deliberate targeting of communities of color for toxic waste facilities.

  • The official sanctioning of the presence of life-threatening poisons and pollutants for communities of color.

  • Excluding people of color from leadership of the environmental movements.

  • Drawn from [28]

    • “The fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.… Fair treatment means that no group of people should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, governmental and commercial operations or policies.”

  • United States Environmental Protection Agency 1982 (

  • Environmental inequities have more to do with geographical contextuality and socioeconomic characteristics than ethnic identity.

  • Key variables include:

    • Community size in relation to major population centers

    • Economic/political standing derived from proximity or significance to political/economic centers

    • Economic contexts (is the community a resource-extractive economy versus a knowledge-based or other type of economy)

    • Social/cultural elements.

  • Place-based EJ is defined by Mitchell as:

    • “The right to a safe, healthy, productive and sustainable environment for all, in which environment is viewed in its totality and includes ecological (biological), physical (natural and built), social, political, aesthetic and economic components” [13, p.557)].

  • Focuses upon the key challenges facing Indigenous people across the globe.

  • While based upon a racial characteristic (indigeneity) this is also based within geographic contextuality (place-based EJ).

  • Unlike broader place-based EJ, Indigenous EJ recognizes geographical presences and cultures fixed within certain places that can trace roots back thousands of years.

  • Place and culture/spirituality are inextricably intertwined and are included within assessments of harm and response, in addition to physical, health, or economic harms.

  • Schlosberg and Carruthers [17, p.13] state that Indigenous environmental injustices are “direct assaults not only against the people, but also against cultural practices and beliefs, and the ability of their community to reproduce those traditions. Indigenous leaders thus articulate environmental injustices as a set of conditions that remove or restrict the ability of individuals and communities to function—conditions that undermine their health, destroy economies and cultural livelihoods, or present general environmental threats.”