A Taxonomy of Environmental Justice

24 Pages Posted: 1 Dec 2004

See all articles by Robert R. Kuehn

Robert R. Kuehn

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law


Environmental justice disputes arise at the international, national and local levels. Disputes at the international level include allegations that multi-national corporations are exploiting indigenous peoples and the impoverished conditions of developing nations. At the national level, although an overwhelming number of studies show disparate impacts on peoples of color and lower-incomes, debate continues about the strength of that evidence and the appropriate political and legal responses to such disparities. At the local level, many people of color and lower-income communities believe they have not been treated fairly regarding the distribution of the benefits and burdens of environmental protection.

Over the past decade during which communities, academics, regulated firms, and government officials have struggled with these issues of the relationship of environmental quality to race and class, the quest to explain the problems underlying environmental justice disputes has resulted in the use of varying terminology and definitions. To better understand the essence and breadth of environmental justice concerns, this article sets forth a four-part categorization of environmental justice issues: 1) distributive justice; 2) procedural justice; 3) corrective justice; and 4) social justice. This taxonomy offers a method of collapsing the seemingly broad scope of environmental justice and identifying common causes of and solutions to environmental injustice.

Keywords: environmental justice, environmental law, distributive justice, social justice

JEL Classification: K32

Suggested Citation

Kuehn, Robert R., A Taxonomy of Environmental Justice. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=628088

Robert R. Kuehn (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law ( email )

Campus Box 1120
One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
United States
314-935-5706 (Phone)
314-935-5356 (Fax)

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