Mar 31, 2022
Organizer and Policymaker Perspectives on the Historical Roots of and Solutions for Environmental Justice Inequities in U.S. Cities
Published in: Environmental Justice, ahead of print (2022). doi: 10.1089/env.2022.003
Posted on RAND.org on December 28, 2022
Environmental justice policies have grown in prominence over the past several decades. However, few studies have sought to characterize the perceptions of organizers and policymakers across U.S. cities engaged in implementing contemporary environmental justice policies and investments.
We conducted 19 in-depth interviews with municipal policymakers and organizers to understand how communities experience and understand the root causes of environmental injustices in U.S. cities, the characteristics of existing and proposed policies intended to address environmental injustices, and perceptions and lessons learned for equitably engaging communities and overcoming barriers and unintended consequences.
A range of municipal policies are being implemented to address injustices in U.S. cities, including grant-based programs for targeting green amenities and infrastructure toward communities most in need and requirements for land use decisions and industrial activities. These efforts are broadly consistent with Justice40 goals. Respondents shared key lessons for implementing environmental justice policies in U.S. cities, including emphasis on procedurally just and meaningful engagement, building trust in government and self-efficacy, procedural and distributional equity in program design and implementation, anticipating and addressing unintended consequences such as green gentrification, and balancing environmental justice improvements with other quality-of-life interventions.
This article fills a critical research gap and provides insights for Justice40 implementation by focusing on the perspectives of policy implementers and organizers working in urban communities with histories of discrimination and neglect and identifying opportunities to inform environmental justice policy implementation by examining the root causes of environmental injustices. To achieve progress, more must be done to help communities build support for environmental justice policies, target and allocate resources, facilitate meaningful engagement, and avoid unintended consequences.