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Spring 2024 Course

Environmental Justice

Prerequisites: None

Exam Type: No Exam

Environmental justice has taken center stage as a social, political, and legal issue in recent years, and one cannot fully understand environmental law and policy, or the contemporary environmental movement, without a meaningful appreciation of the history, goals, and principles of environmental justice. Emerging at the intersection of environment and civil rights, the environmental justice movement is a response to the lived experience of people of color, and an indictment of the many ways that race determines environmental burdens and affects people’s access to environmental decision-making. This course will explore the history of the environmental justice movement in the United States, its connection to the long history of racism in America, key features of modern environmental justice advocacy, and the laws and policies that both helped to created (and perpetuate) environmental inequity and that seek to remedy environmental injustice. We will explore important principles of procedural justice and distributive justice and how they play out in the environmental arena, the role of federal agencies and federal regulatory programs like the Clean Air Act, and the relationship between the environmental justice community and the largely white-led mainstream environmental movement. Finally, we will examine recent developments, and consider the kinds of changes in law and policy that offer the most promise for creating a more fair, equitable, and just environmental policy landscape.