Structural Racism, Structural Pollution and the Need for a New Paradigm


Any serious attempt to address the issues of poverty, wealth and the working poor would do well to learn from the Environmental Justice movement, a broad-based national social movement that has emerged from the ground up over the past twenty years. The movement operates at the intersection of race, poverty and the environment, and offers hope in an otherwise bleak landscape of environmental and social justice advocacy. The movement offers a new paradigm for community leadership and control. This Essay explores the need for that new paradigm, using one community’s struggle against toxic intrusion to illustrate the failure of the traditional paradigms of environmental and civil rights law. The experiences of residents of the Waterfront South neighborhood of Camden, New Jersey, demonstrate the need to address the structural nature of both pollution and racism, and we offer an environmental justice approach as a start.


Environmental justice, Legal assistance to the poor, Pollution, Racism, United States



Luke W. Cole (Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, San Francisco, California)
Caroline Farrell (Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, Delano, California)



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