Working Toward a Common Goal? Three Case Studies of Brownfields Redevelopment in Environmental Justice Communities
Stanford Environmental Law Journal, Vol. 18, Pp. 285-329, 1999
Posted: 8 Oct 1999
Environmental protection and remediation present complex problems involving aspects of both natural and social systems. Within modern environmentalism, two separate but related trends?the environmental justice movement and brownfields redevelopment?try in different ways to foster innovative and enduring solutions to environmental problems. The environmental justice movement attempts to create equal access to environmental resources and equal protection from ecological hazards for all communities. Brownfields redevelopment attempts to restore abandoned, contaminated sites sufficiently so that they can again be utilized. This paper analyzes whether the environmental justice movement and brownfields redevelopment are compatible solutions to ecological problems. In particular, this analysis focuses on whether the minority and low-income communities these movements seek to benefit are satisfied with brownfields redevelopment.
Case studies of brownfields redevelopment in three Michigan environmental justice communities reveal that brownfields redevelopment seems to benefit communities and generate community satisfaction regarding redevelopment, but satisfaction is higher when a greater amount of citizen input is accepted and implemented by the local government. This suggests that brownfields redevelopment and environmental justice do in fact work toward common goals, but that this work has its greatest overlap when public participation actually impacts the course of redevelopment. This result is not surprising given the theoretical compatibility of environmental justice and brownfields redevelopment?the goals of the two solutions largely overlap, and it seems only on the issue of public participation that they diverge.
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