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Environment and History

Subaltern Environmentalism in the United States: A Historiographic Review

Michael Egan

Environment and History 8(2002): 21-41

When a group of people is faced with both social and environmental subordination, they are the victims of environmental injustice. This subordination is manifest in the disproportionate siting of environmental hazards in poor or minority communities and also in the inequitable distribution of ecological resources, both of which perpetuate the marginalisation of subaltern groups. At the heart of the environmental justice movement is a fight for the empowerment of subaltern groups, heretofore excluded from environmental decision-making. In recognising that the environmental health of their living spaces and families is critical to exacting any kind of improvement of their socioeconomic conditions, subaltern groups have added a dynamic new dimension to their social struggles. This counter-hegemonic struggle for ecological democracy is one of the fastest growing social movements in contemporary society, and requires the attention of environmental historians to situate it within the broader context of the history of environmentalism.


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