Katrina, Feminism, and Environmental Justice
15 Pages Posted: 29 May 2007
Nearly two years after Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans, we are still struggling to assess the damage, whether in terms of lives, financial loss, or geographic area destroyed. This essay focuses on another dimension of the Katrina disaster: distributional fairness. Many Americans seemed shocked that African Americans and the poor would be hit so hard by events as they unfolded. Although not covered as widely in the press, women, particularly single mothers, also fared much worse than the general population. It should not have been surprising. The less powerful almost always bear the brunt of social disruption, whether by flood, plague, or war. This essay studies the distributional effects of the New Orleans flood with reference to three insights that derive from both feminism and the environmental justice movement. The first insight emphasizes the role of vulnerability (as opposed to strength of force or path of exposure) in protecting against environmental harm. The second insight emphasizes the political or public nature of personal security. The last insight emphasizes patterns of connection and causation, including the connection between economic and social stability and the protection against economic harm. This examination, I hope, will lead to some important conclusions about protection and recovery from urban disaster.
Keywords: feminism, environmental justice, New Orleans, Katrina, disaster, flood, social justice
JEL Classification: I30, J7, K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation