Environmental Justice: An International Perspective

L. London, T. K. Joshi, E. Cairncross, L. Claudio

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Environmental justice is usually defined in terms of nondiscriminatory protection from exposure to environmental toxins or hazards. However, it is more useful to recognize the underlying social determinants leading to inequities that result in environmental injustices at national and international levels. This means that environmental justice is intimately linked to questions of development, human rights, and democratic accountability. Global trade rules fail to take account of these questions of environmental justice and even self-regulatory systems premised on fair trade may reinforce social and environmental injustice. Three examples are presented to illustrate how axes of discrimination that result in poor communities bearing the brunt of environmental injustice include not only race but also class, caste, and gender, and may have different emphases in developing countries, given inequalities between countries that may be as significant as inequalities within countries. Small farmers struggling to balance economic survival and integration in a global economy have to cope with pressures to adopt hazardous high input agricultural methods, particularly pesticide usage, without the resources or capacity to protect their health, their families health or the environment. Asbestos use and production continues globally and, while asbestos-related deaths are likely to begin decreasing in developed countries due to restrictions imposed over the past few decades, mortality is likely to rise in developing countries because of a global failure to control a toxic agent due to vested interests that continue to extend the use of asbestos products. Last, flaws in the regulatory system allow poorly designed incineration plants to locate near poor communities and require concerted civil society action to effect protest against such hazardous installations. Environmental justice therefore implies a model of sustainable development that integrates economic development, poverty alleviation, and environmental protection and which recognizes the agency of marginalized communities in changing their conditions of vulnerability.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Environmental Health, Volume 1-5
ISBN (Electronic)9780444522733
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2011


  • Community agency
  • Developing countries
  • Equity
  • Globalization
  • Justice
  • Politics
  • Power
  • Sustainable development
  • Trade-offs


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