7 - The climate-justice link: communicating risk with low-income and minority audiences  pp. 119-138

The climate-justice link: communicating risk with low-income and minority audiences

By Julian Agyeman, Bob Doppelt, Kathy Lynn and Halida Hatic

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In this chapter, we briefly detail the growth of the US environmental justice movement and one of its offshoots, the international climate-justice movement. This movement is attempting to “put a human face” on climate change. The “Bali Principles of Climate Justice” shift climate change from a scientific–technical issue to one of human rights and environmental justice. We then look at how these issues can be communicated in disadvantaged communities: Roxbury, a predominantly African-American area in Boston, Massachusetts; and in poor, rural communities in the western United States documented in a 2001 study by the University of Oregon Program for Watershed and Community Health (now Resource Innovation), focusing on wildfire management and preparedness.

Environmental justice

Environmental justice concerns have been around in North America since the Conquest of Columbus in 1492. Yet, as a social movement, Faber (1998: 1) calls the US environmental justice movement “a new wave of grassroots environmentalism” and Anthony (1998: ix) calls it “the most striking thing to emerge in the US environmental movement.” Whether it developed “in” the environmental movement or “from” the civil rights movement is perhaps a moot point. However, the US environmental justice movement, as opposed to environmental justice concerns, is generally believed to have started around fall 1982, when a large protest erupted in Warren County, North Carolina. The state wanted to dump more than 6,000 truckloads of soil contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into what was euphemistically described as “a secure landfill.” The protesters came from miles around.

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