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Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility Paperback – June 20, 2014

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Editorial Reviews


"In Toxic Communities, Dorceta Taylor tackles a vexing question: why don’t people in contaminated communities just move? This highly original book reframes the entire field of environmental justice studies by urging us to focus on the social mechanisms behind the scourge of environmental racism, which relegate people to those spaces and make it nearly impossible for them to move out. Only when we can target those underlying mechanisms will there be any hope of securing a meaningful and lasting environmental justice. Rather than simply demonstrating the fact that people of color are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards and accepting simple explanations for this phenomenon, Taylor goes to the heart of the matter and explores why and how environmental racism remains an enduring wound on the American social landscape. This is the first book to delve so deeply and broadly into the debates concerning environmental racism. Toxic Communities will become the gold standard for the field of environmental justice studies."-David Naguib Pellow,co-author of The Slums of Aspen: Immigrants vs. the Environment in America’s Eden

"It offers a valuable review of the diverse mechanisms of structural racism that has produced and maintained patterns of residential segregation, spatial exclusion, and environmental injustices in the United States."-PsycCritques

"In this excellent assessment of multimethod research, Taylor brings a refreshing emphasis on nuance and accountability to the environmental justice discussion . . . provides a comprehensive, objective, and balanced portrait of environmental justice to date."-Choice

"Toxic Communities is the most comprehensive account to date of why certain communities host toxic facilities and why certain populations are more likely to live in close proximity to those facilities. Taylor not only forthrightly confronts the complex causal processes that shape the uneven distribution of environmental hazards, but she does so with a keen sensitivity to the vast differences among communities, their geographies and their histories. This book deepens our understanding of the phenomenon of environmental (in)justice and promises to be a standard-bearer in the field for a long time to come."-Sheila R. Foster,co-author of From the Ground Up

"Well-written and researched."-Olive Branch United

"Dorceta Taylor, a distinguished scholar in the field of environmental sociology, has just published a book that contributes to research on environmental racism in the USA. In Toxic Communities, Taylor surveys long-standing debates in the field of environmental justice and identifies new theoretical and methodological directions for environmental justice researchers."-Urban Studies

About the Author

Dorceta E. Taylor is Professor in the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan, where she also serves as Field of Studies Coordinator for the Environmental Justice program. She graduated from Yale University with doctorates in Sociology and Forestry & Environmental Studies. Her previous books include The Environment and the People in American Cities: 1600s-1900s. Disorder, Inequalty and Social Change, which won the 2010 Allan Schnaiberg Outstanding Publication Award from the Environment and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: NYU Press (June 20, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1479861782
  • ISBN-13: 978-1479861781
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #120,946 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By B. Wolinsky on August 19, 2014
Format: Paperback
It won’t take a book like this to convince me of the points here. Throughout the world, it’s been common practice to dump garbage in poorer communities, and if not, the lower income resident usually live in the most polluted areas, near the dumps, coal bins, canals, and slaughterhouses. Take Vancouver’s “Low Track” as an example; it was a low-lying area that flooded easily, so you’d get sewage pollution whenever it rained, and who would want to live there? London’s Camden Lock is another example of low-income housing built near a polluted waterway. It may be stylish now, but in 1992, it was a mess. Tourists and locals came to the Camden Lock market to shop, browse, and take pictures, but you couldn’t be there at night. The smell from the canal made it the least desirable place to live.
Toxic Communities turns things up a notch by studying how racism as well as poverty drives the “dump in the poor town” practice. Triana, Alabama, for instance, was polluted with DDT from the Tennessee River, and the locals were eating toxic fish, not out of a desire to “eat local,” but because they were hungry. Warren County, North Carolina, was the scene of a 1979 lawsuit to stop a PCB landfill. Love Canal is barely cited in this book, because it had nothing to do with racism or poverty. On the contrary, the dump was there before the houses were built, and the owners warned the town not to build there. The problem was that the town thought the canal was leak-proof, and it wasn’t. The residents were all white, so you can’t blame racism, but what if the town built low-income housing on the site? Could the town have force section-8 tenants to move in, so they could sell valuable land where existing housing projects were?
Native American land in the USA is also in danger of pollution.
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