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Environmental justice issues in communities hosting US nuclear power plants

Description

This study explores the potential risks associated with the 65 U.S.-based commercial nuclear power plants (NPPs) and the distribution of those risks among the populations of both their respective host

This study explores the potential risks associated with the 65 U.S.-based commercial nuclear power plants (NPPs) and the distribution of those risks among the populations of both their respective host communities and of the communities located in outlying areas. First, I examine the relevant environmental justice issues. I start by examining the racial/ethnic composition of the host community populations, as well as the disparities in socio-economic status that exist, if any, between the host communities and communities located in outlying areas. Second, I estimate the statistical associations that exist, if any, between a population's distance from a NPP and several independent variables. I conduct multivariate ordinary least square (OLS) regression analyses and spatial autocorrelation regression (SAR) analyses at the national, regional and individual-NPP levels. Third, I construct a NPP potential risk index (NPP PRI) that defines four discrete risk categories--namely, very high risk, high risk, moderate risk, and low risk. The NPP PRI allows me then to estimate the demographic characteristics of the populations exposed to each so-defined level of risk. Fourth, using the Palo Verde NPP as the subject, I simulate a scenario in which a NPP experiences a core-damage accident. I use the RASCAL 4.3 software to simulate the path of dispersion of the resultant radioactive plume, and to investigate the statistical associations that exist, if any, between the dispersed radioactive plume and the demographic characteristics of the populations located within the plume's footprint. This study utilizes distributive justice theories to understand the distribution of the potential risks associated with NPPs, many of which are unpredictable, irreversible and inescapable. I employ an approach that takes into account multiple stakeholders in order to provide avenues for all parties to express concerns, and to ensure the relevance and actionability of any resulting policy recommendations.

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Date Created
  • 2014

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Gardens of justice: food-based social movements in underserved, minority communities

Description

Residents of the United States increasingly support organic and local food systems. New Social Movement theorists have described alternative agriculture as a social movement that transcends social class. Other scholars

Residents of the United States increasingly support organic and local food systems. New Social Movement theorists have described alternative agriculture as a social movement that transcends social class. Other scholars have critiqued alternative agriculture for catering to a middle-class, white public. Simultaneously, geographers have identified communities across the United States that struggle with reduced access to healthy fruits and vegetables. In some of these neighborhoods, known as “food deserts,” local groups are redefining an inequitable distribution of healthy food as a social injustice, and they have begun initiatives to practice “food justice.” The overarching research questions of this study are: 1) How do communities become food deserts? 2) How do food justice movements crystallize and communities practice food justice? 3) What are the social outcomes of food justice movements? Using an Ecology of Actors framework, this study analyzes the actors and operational scales of three food justice movements in Phoenix, Arizona. A narrative analysis of historical scholarly materials and other artifacts reveals that, for more than a century, some communities have tried to create minority-operated local food systems. However, they were thwarted by racist policies and market penetration of the conventional US food system. Interviews with residents, garden organizers and food justice advocates living and working in the city create a narrative of the present day struggle for food justice. Results of this work show that contemporary residents describe their foodscape as one of struggle, and carless residents rely upon social networks to access healthy food. Garden organizers and gardeners are creating networks of community gardens, market gardens, and informal farmers’ markets. They are actively transforming their communities’ landscapes with sophisticated garden ecology in an intense urban heat island. However, the movement’s continued success may be threatened. Many new Phoenix-based local food coalitions and national alternative agriculture social movements are now working to alter Phoenix’s foodscape. Composed of well-educated professionals, who have adopted a justice-based language around food, these organizations may unintentionally co-opt the local food justice movements.

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Date Created
  • 2015

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Resisting displacement through culture and care: workplace immigration raids and the Loop 202 Freeway on Akimel O'odham land in Phoenix, Arizona, 2012-2014

Description

Low-income communities of color in the U.S. today are often vulnerable to displacement, forced relocation away from the places they call home. Displacement takes many forms, including immigration enforcement, mass

Low-income communities of color in the U.S. today are often vulnerable to displacement, forced relocation away from the places they call home. Displacement takes many forms, including immigration enforcement, mass incarceration, gentrification, and unwanted development. This dissertation juxtaposes two different examples of displacement, emphasizing similarities in lived experiences. Mixed methods including document-based research, map-making, visual ethnography, participant observation, and interviews were used to examine two case studies in Phoenix, Arizona: (1) workplace immigration raids, which overwhelmingly target Latino migrant workers; and (2) the Loop 202 freeway, which would disproportionately impact Akimel O'odham land. Drawing on critical geography, critical ethnic studies, feminist theory, carceral studies, and decolonial theory, this research considers: the social, economic, and political causes of displacement, its impact on the cultural and social meanings of space, the everyday practices that allow people to survive economically and emotionally, and the strategies used to organize against relocation.

Although raids are often represented as momentary spectacles of danger and containment, from a worker's perspective, raids are long trajectories through multiple sites of domination. Raids' racial geographies reinforce urban segregation, while traumatization in carceral space reduces the power of Latino migrants in the workplace. Expressions of care among raided workers and others in jail and detention make carceral spaces more livable, and contribute to movement building and abolitionist sentiments outside detention.

The Loop 202 would result in a loss of native land and sovereignty, including clean air and a mountain sacred to O'odham people. While the proposal originated with corporate desire for a transnational trade corridor, it has been sustained by local industry, the perceived inevitability of development, and colonial narratives about native people and land. O'odham artists, mothers, and elders counter the freeway's colonial logics through stories that emphasize balance, collective care over individual profit, and historical consciousness.

Both raids and the freeway have been contested by local grassroots movements. Through political education, base-building, advocacy, lawsuits, and protest strategies, community organizations have achieved changes in state practice. These movements have also worked to create alternative spaces of safety and home, rooted in interpersonal care and Latino and O'odham culture.

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Date Created
  • 2014

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Urban political ecology of green public space in Mexico City: equity, parks and people

Description

Decades of research confirms that urban green spaces in the form of parks, gardens, and urban forests provide numerous environmental and social services including microclimate regulation, noise reduction, rainwater drainage,

Decades of research confirms that urban green spaces in the form of parks, gardens, and urban forests provide numerous environmental and social services including microclimate regulation, noise reduction, rainwater drainage, stress amelioration, etc. In post-industrial megacities of the twenty-first century, densely populated, violent and heavily polluted such as Mexico City, having access to safe and well-maintained green public space is in all respects necessary for people to maintain or improve their quality of life. However, according to recent reports by the Mexican Ministry of Environment, green public spaces in Mexico City are insufficient and unevenly distributed across the sixteen boroughs of the Mexican Distrito Federal. If it is known that parks are essential urban amenities, why are green public spaces in Mexico City scarce and so unevenly distributed? As a suite of theoretical frameworks, Urban Political Ecology (UPE) has been used to study uneven urban development and its resulting unequal socio-ecological relations. UPE explores the complex relationship between environmental change, socio-economic urban characteristics and political processes. This research includes a detailed analysis of the distributive justice of green public space (who gets what and why) based on socio-spatial data sets provided by the Environment and Land Management Agency for the Federal District. Moreover, this work went beyond spatial data depicting available green space (m2/habitant) and explored the relation between green space distribution and other socio-demographic attributes, i.e. gender, socio-economic status, education and age that according to environmental justice theory, are usually correlated to an specific (biased) distribution of environmental burdens and amenities. Moreover, using archival resources complemented with qualitative data generated through in-depth interviews with key actors involved in the creation, planning, construction and management of green public spaces, this research explored the significant role of public and private institutions in the development of Mexico City's parks and green publics spaces, with a special focus on the effects of neoliberal capitalism as the current urban political economy in the city.

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Date Created
  • 2015

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Unveiling water (in) justice in Arequipa: a case study of mining industry in urban space

Description

Following harsh economic and political reforms in the 1990s, Peru became a model of a neoliberal state based on natural resource extraction. Since then social and environmental conflicts between local

Following harsh economic and political reforms in the 1990s, Peru became a model of a neoliberal state based on natural resource extraction. Since then social and environmental conflicts between local communities and the extractive industry, particularly mining corporations, have multiplied resulting in violent clashes and a shared perception that the state is not guaranteeing people's rights. At the crossroads of the struggle between mining corporations and local communities lay different ways of living and relating to nature. This research concerns water conflict in an urban mining setting. More precisely, this research critically analyzes water conflict in the city of Arequipa as a backdrop for revealing what water injustices look like on the ground. With one million inhabitants, Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru. Arequipa is also home to the third largest copper mine in Peru. On June 2006, social organizations and political authorities marched in protest of the copper mine's acquisition of additional water rights and its use of a tax exemption program. In the aftermath of large protests, the conflict was resolved through a multi-actor negotiation in which the mine became, through a public-private partnership, co-provider of urban water services. Through a unique interdisciplinary theoretical approach and grounded on ethnographic methods I attempt to expose the complexity of water injustice in this particular case. My theoretical framework is based on three large fields of study, that of post-colonial studies, political ecology and critical studies of law. By mapping state-society-nature power relations, analyzing structures of oppression and unpacking the meaning of water rights, my research unveils serious water injustices. My first research finding points to the existence of a racist and classist system that excludes poor and marginal people from water services and from accessing the city. Second, although there are different social and cultural interpretations of water rights, some interpretations hold more power and become hegemonic. Water injustice, in this regard manifests by the rise in power of the economic view of water rights. Finally, neoliberal reforms prioritizing development based on the extractive industries and the commodification of nature are conducive to water injustices.

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Date Created
  • 2012