Environmental Justice For All

How to save our cities, revive the economy, and green the planet—all at the same time

| Mar.-Apr. 2008

This article is part of a package on the new green justice movement. For more, read Global Warming Is Color-Blind and The Temperature Transcends Race.

Manuel Pastor ran bus tours of Los Angeles a few years back. These weren’t the typical sojourns to Disneyland or the MGM studios, though; they were expeditions to some of the city’s most environmentally blighted neighborhoods—where railways, truck traffic, and refineries converge, and where people live 200 feet from the freeway.

The goal of the “toxic tours,” explains Pastor, a professor of geography and of American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California (USC), was to let public officials, policy makers, and donors talk to residents in low-income neighborhoods about the environmental hazards they lived with every day and to literally see, smell, and feel the effects.

“It’s a pretty effective forum,” says Pastor, who directs USC’s Program for Environmental and Regional Equity, noting that a lot of the “tourists” were eager to get back on the bus in a hurry. “When you’re in these neighborhoods, your lungs hurt.”

Like the tours, Pastor’s research into the economic and social issues facing low-income urban communities highlights the environmental disparities that endure in California and across the United States. As stories about global warming, sustainable energy, and climate change make headlines, the fact that some neighborhoods, particularly low-income and minority communities, are disproportionately toxic and poorly regulated has, until recently, been all but ignored.

12/1/2015 11:54:11 PM

Very interesting article, would like to see similar articles for other areas of the United States. Additionally, are any updates available since this article was published?

Fannie Bates
4/21/2014 1:51:31 PM

Please give me ten good reasons to believe we can overcome global warming before it overcomes us!