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Environmental Racism and Social Policy: Risk and Weight of History in the United States, South Africa, and Brazil
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Environmental Racism and Social Policy: Risk and Weight of History in the United States, South Africa, and Brazil

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A comparative analysis of three social policy regimes and their effects on the incidence of environmental racism and environmental justice movements in those countries.

A comparative analysis of three social policy regimes and their effects on the incidence of environmental racism and environmental justice movements in those countries.

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    Environmental Racism and Social Policy: Risk and Weight of History in the United States, South Africa, and Brazil Environmental Racism and Social Policy: Risk and Weight of History in the United States, South Africa, and Brazil Document Transcript

    • Environmental  Racism  and  Social  Policy:  Risk  and  the  Weight  of  History  in  the  United  States,  South  Africa,  and  Brazil     The  concept  of  ‘environmental  racism,’  and  its  connection  to  historical  social  policies  in  various  countries,  has  moved  to  forefront  of  struggles  for  racial  equality  over  the  last  30  years.    This  paper,  by  utilizing  an  extended  framework  comprising  the  typologies  of  Gøsta  Esping-­‐Andersen  and  Ian  Gough  and  Geoff  Wood,  will  seek  to  analyse  the  social  policy  regimes  of  the  United  States,  South  Africa,  and  Brazil,  in  relation  to  environmental  outcomes  through  the  lens  of  race.    Differences  and  similarities  will  be  located  both  within  the  outcomes  experienced  by  different  racial  groups,  and  the  apportioning  of  risk  within  each  social  policy  regime  on  the  basis  of  race.    A  Note  on  the  Analysis  Framework     It  is  beyond  the  purview  of  this  paper  to  undertake  a  detailed  analysis  of  the  extended  theoretical  framework  that  it  will  utilize.1    Nevertheless,  it  is  important  to  note  from  the  outset  just  where  our  sample  countries  fit  within  the  typology.    Firstly,  the  United  States,  whose  social  policies  are  built  around  the  primacy  of  the  market,  is  commonly  identified  as  a  liberal  welfare  state  regime  within  Esping-­‐Anderson’s  framework.2    Secondly,  due  to  the  continued  presence  of  a  large  informal  sector,  which  is  not  covered  by  the  lion’s  share  of  state  social  policy,  alongside  neoliberal  market  strategies  imposed  through  external                                                                                                                  1  For  an  in  depth  discussion  of  Esping-­‐Anderson’s  typology  see  Gøsta  Esping-­‐Andersen,  The  Three  Worlds  of  Welfare  Capitalism,  Cambridge,  Polity  Press,  1990,  pp.  26-­‐27.    For  an  in  depth  discussion  of  Gough  and  Wood’s  extended  typology,  see  Ian  Gough,  ‘Welfare  Regimes  in  Development  Contexts:  a  Global  and  Regional  Analysis,’  in  I.  Gough  and  Geoff  Wood  et  al  (eds.),  Insecurity  and  Welfare  Regimes  in  Asia,  Africa  and  Latin  America  :  Social  Policy  in  Development  Contexts,  Cambridge,  Cambridge  University  Press,  2004,  pp.  28-­‐36  and  Armando  Barrientos,  ‘Latin  America:  Towards  a  Liberal-­‐Informal  Welfare  Regime,’  in  Ian  Gough  et  al.  (eds.),  Insecurity  and  Welfare  Regimes  in  Asia,  Africa  and  Latin  America:  Social  Policy  in  Developmental  Contexts,  Cambridge,  Cambridge  University  Press,  2004,  pp.  121-­‐126.  2  Diana  DiNitto,  ‘An  Overview  of  American  Social  Policy,’  in  Michelle  Livermore  and  James  Midgley  (eds.),  The  Handbook  of  Social  Policy,  Thousand  Oaks,  California,  Sage  Publications,  2009,  pp.  21-­‐23.     1  
    • pressure,  Brazil  can  be  located  within  Gough  and  Wood’s  liberal  informal  welfare  regimes.3    Lastly,  burdened  by  the  legacy  of  colonialism,  underdevelopment,  pervasive  inequality,  and  a  burgeoning  informal  sector,  South  Africa  displays  all  the  hallmarks  of  Gough  and  Wood’s  insecurity  regimes.4    Common  to  all  three  regimes  types,  despite  divergent  historical  and  social  development  paths,  is  the  absence  of  ongoing  state  involvement  in  risk  mitigation,  either  through  an  unwillingness  related  to  ideology,  or  an  inability  related  to  historical  factors.    The  Environment,  Social  Policy,  and  Race     The  environment  is  more  than  just  the  space  surrounding  us;  it  is  the  ecological  space  in  which  the  basic  necessities  of  life  are  provided  for.    It  is  also  the  space  in  which  we  are  employed,  obtain  education,  and  pursue  social  lives,  and  our  ability  to  do  so  depends  heavily  on  the  maintenance  of  a  decent  level  of  environmental  quality.5    Understood  in  this  way  it  is  clear  that  environmental  policy,  which  regulates  the  quality  of  ecological  spaces,  and  social  policy,  which  regulates  the  provision  of  social  ‘goods’  within  those  spaces,  are  intimately  linked.    Further,  the  relationship  between  environmental  quality  and  social  policy  is  reciprocal  –  environmental  destruction  may  cause  complex  social  problems  (such  as  physical  and  psychological  illnesses,  and  the  collapse  of  communities),  while  poorly  conceived  social  and  economic  policies  can  threaten  an  already  fragile  ecological  balance.6                                                                                                                      3  Armando  Barrientos,  ‘Latin  America,’  p.  122.  4  Jeremy  Seekings,  ‘Welfare  Regimes  and  Redistribution  in  the  South’  in  D.  Donno,  I.  Shapiro  and  P.A.  Swenson  (eds.),  Divide  and  Deal:  The  Politics  of  Distribution  in  Democracies,  New  York,  New  York  University  Press,  2008,  pp.  24-­‐27.  5  Melissa  Checker,  Polluted  Promises:  Environmental  Racism  and  the  Search  for  Justice  in  a  Southern  Town,  New  York,  New  York  Unversity  Press,  2005,  p.  17.  6  Marie  D.  Hoff  and  John  G.  McNutt,  ‘Social  Policy  and  the  Physical  Environment,’  in  Michelle  Livermore  and  James  Midgley  (eds.),  The  Hanbook  of  Social  Policy,  Thousand  Oaks,  California,  Sage  Pulications,  2009,  pp.  295-­‐297.    For  an  in  depth  discussion  of  health  and  social  effects  related  to  environmental  degradation  see  ibid,  pp.  300-­‐303.     2  
    • Since  the  late  1970s  the  emergent  environmental  justice  movement  has  attempted  to  confront  and  eradicate  inequities  in  environmental  quality  based  upon  racist  social  policies.    It  has  drawn  upon  studies  showing  that  patterns  of  environmental  destruction,  and  the  social  issues  they  cause,  are  often  dependent  upon  the  presence  of  poor  or  racially  defined  communities.    In  a  number  of  countries,  these  results  are  a  corollary  to  historical  social  policies  that  have  embedded  racial  discrimination  within  social  and  political  structures.    It  is  not  surprising  therefore,  that  struggles  for  environmental  justice,  and  for  racial  equality,  are  often  inseparable.7    Three  examples  of  ‘environmental  racism’  that  can  be  understood  within  this  paradigm  are  the  United  States,  South  Africa,  and  Brazil,  and  it  is  to  these  that  we  now  turn.    Three  Examples  of  Environmental  Racism    (i)  The  United  States     While  social  policy  in  the  United  States  no  longer  reproduces  racial  inequality  as  directly  and  explicitly  as  it  did  in  the  past,  racial  conflict  is  nevertheless  embedded  within  the  structure  of  American  society.    The  Jim  Crow  laws,  which  legislated  racial  segregation  in  areas  such  as  education,  housing,  and  employment,  organized  society  around  the  conception  of  racial  difference  between  the  end  of  the  American  Civil  War  and  the  Civil  Rights  era.    But  although  the  Civil  Rights  Act  (1964)  and  the  Fair  Housing  Act  (1968)  nominally  dismantled  de  jure  racial  segregation,  de  facto  segregation  is  still  an  ambiguous  force  in  contemporary  America.    This  is  particularly  apparent  in  urban  areas,  where  the  phenomenon  of  ‘white  flight’  to  wealthy  outer  suburbs,  as  well  as  discriminatory  lending  and  housing  patterns,  led  to  the  formation  by  the  1970s  of  central  ‘urban  ghettos,’  characterized  by  black  racial  concentration  and                                                                                                                  7  For  an  overview  of  the  environmental  justice  movement  see  Glenn  S.  Johnson,  ‘Environmental  Justice:  a  Brief  History  and  Overview,’  in  Filomina  C.  STEADY  (ed.),  Environmental  Justice  in  the  New  Millennium:  Global  Perspectives  on  Race,  Ethnicity,  and  Human  Rights,  New  York,  Palgrave  Macmillan,  2009,  pp.  17-­‐38.     3  
    • declining  quality  of  life.8    Social  policies  enacted  since  have  had  little  effect  upon  these  so-­‐called  ‘racial  donuts’,  in  part  due  to  less  overt  forms  of  racism  perpetuated  by  social  and  market  forces.9     Given  the  persistence  of  racial  segregation  and  inequality,  it  is  not  surprising  that  environmental  harms,  and  indeed  benefits,  are  unevenly  distributed  in  the  United  States.10    African  Americans,  for  example,  are  three  times  more  likely  than  whites  to  live  in  communities  containing  at  least  one  uncontrolled  toxic  waste  site,  leaving  them  more  vulnerable  to  health  risks  such  as  asthma,  of  which  they  are  three  times  more  likely  to  die  from.11    Further,  a  2006  study  of  air  toxins  in  American  cities  found  a  ‘persistent  relationship  between  increasing  levels  of  racial-­‐ethnic  segregation  and  increased  estimated  cancer  risk.’    At  the  same  time,  the  incidence  of  environmental  benefits,  such  as  ‘green  areas’,  also  vary  on  seemingly  racial  grounds.    In  Los  Angeles,  for  example,  there  are  1.7  acres  of  parkland  in  white  wealthy  areas,  compared  with  just  0.3  in  more  racially  diverse  areas.12       These  more  recent  findings  echo  the  conclusions  of  a  study  conducted  in  1987  under  the  title  Toxic  Wastes  and  Race  in  the  United  States.    It  found  a  clear  correlation  between  the  placement  of  hazardous  waste  and  the  presence  of  minority  communities,  which  it  identified  as  ‘environmental  racism.’    According  to  the  Reverend  Dr.  Benjamin  F.  Chavis  Junior,  who  wrote  the  forward  to  the  study,  environmental  racism  involves  ‘racial  discrimination  in  environmental  policy-­‐making,  enforcement  of  regulations  and  laws,  the  deliberate  targeting  of  communities  of  color  [sic]  for  toxic  waste  disposal,  and  the  siting  of  polluting                                                                                                                  8  Jordan  Brown  et  al.,  ‘Race,  Politics,  and  Social  Policy,’  in  Michelle  Livermore  and  James  Midgley  (eds.),  The  Handbook  of  Social  Policy,  Thousand  Oaks,  California,  Sage  Publications,  2009,  pp.  271-­‐272.  9  For  an  overview  of  these  forces  see  Robert  R.  M.  Verchick,  Facing  Catastrophe:  Environmental  Action  for  a  post-­‐Katrina  World,  Cambridge  Mass,  Harvard  University  Press,  2010,  p.  160.  10  Ibid,  p.  117  11  Melissa  Checker,  Polluted  Promises,  p.  13.  12  Robert  R.  M.  Verchick,  Facing  Catastrophe,  pp.  118-­‐120.     4  
    • industries.’13    Government  authorities  have  questioned  these  findings,  and  their  racial  implications,  on  the  basis  that  economic  considerations  dictate  waste  disposal,  and  black  communities  tend  to  be  situated  on  the  cheapest  land.14    Yet,  this  study,  as  well  as  a  follow  up  report  in  2007,  found  that  low-­‐income  white  areas  also  have  drastically  lower  levels  of  contamination.15    It  would  seem  then,  that  the  risks  of  negative  health  affects  flowing  from  such  environmental  policies  are  at  least  in  part  racially  determined.     The  devastation  wrought  on  the  minority  communities  of  New  Orleans  by  Hurricane  Katrina  and  its  aftermath  is  perhaps  the  most  blatant  example  of  environmental  racism  in  the  United  States.    Following  the  Civil  War,  segregated  black  communities  were  located  in  areas  of  the  city  that  were  the  most  prone  to  flooding  due  to  elevation  and  to  levee  configuration.    Restrictive  land  use  laws,  discriminatory  lending  patters,  and  intimidation  on  the  part  of  sections  of  the  white  community,  have  since  perpetuated  this  exposure.16    As  a  result,  the  areas  damaged  following  the  storm  were  75  percent  African-­‐American,  who  in  part  due  to  extreme  poverty  (of  the  28  percent  of  people  in  New  Orleans  living  in  poverty,  84  percent  were  black)  were  unable  to  evacuate  at  the  rate  of  wealthy  whites.    The  despicably  slow  disaster  response,  moreover,  accentuated  the  instance  of  death  and  disease,  and  has  been  widely  blamed  on  the  implicit  racial  bias  of  the  Bush  administration.17    Regardless  of  who  is  to  blame,  however,  it  is                                                                                                                  13  Produced  by  the  United  Church  of  Christ  Commission  on  Racial  Justice,  the  extended  title  of  the  study  was  Toxic  Wastes  and  Race  in  the  United  States:  A  National  Report  on  the  Racial  and  Social-­‐Economic  Characteristics  of  Communities  with  Hazardous  Waste  Sites,  though  it  is  more  commonly  known  by  its  shorter  title.    Melissa  Checker,  Polluted  Promises,  p.  14.  14  A  prominent  example  is  the  1992  report,  produced  by  the  Environmental  Protection  Agency,  Environmental  Equity:  Reducing  Risk  for  All  Communities.    Martin  V.  Melosi,  ‘Equity,  Eco-­‐racism,  and  Environmental  History,’  in  Char  Miller  and  Hal  Rothman  (ed.),  Out  of  the  Woods:  Essays  in  Environmental  History,  Pittsburgh,  Univeristy  of  Pittsburgh  Press,  1997,  pp.  201-­‐202.  15  Melissa  Checker,  Polluted  Promises,  pp.  14-­‐15.    Also  produced  by  the  United  Church  of  Christ,  the  follow  up  study,  ‘Toxic  Wastes  and  Race  at  Twenty:  1987-­‐2007’  found  that  in  spite  of  raised  levels  of  community  awareness,  little  had  changed  in  the  interceding  years.    Robert  R.  M.  Verchick,  Facing  Catastrophe,  p.  119.  16  Ibid,  p.  160.  17  Ibid,  pp.  130-­‐136.     5  
    • clear  that  black  communities  had  been  shouldered  with  a  disproportionate  level  of  environmental  and  social  risk  on  the  basis  of  race.    (ii)  South  Africa     Racial  conflict  is  embedded  within  the  structure  of  South  African  Society,  much  as  in  the  case  of  the  United  States,  due  to  an  historical  social  policy.    Known  as  Apartheid  (literally  ‘apartness’)  and  established  in  1948,  it  sought  the  separate  development  of  white  and  non-­‐white18  communities  until  its  dismantling  in  1994,  and  led  to  the  forcible  relocation  of  individuals  comprising  the  latter.    Those  whose  labour  was  required  by  industries  located  in  or  around  urban  centres  were  pushed  onto  nearby  unused  and  unwanted  land  characterized  by  a  lack  of  services,  housing  shortages,  overcrowding  and  low  environmental  quality.19    Those  who  we  deemed  surplus  to  requirements  (mostly  women,  children  and  the  elderly)  were  relocated  to  barren  rural  ‘homelands’  (supposedly  traditional  native  areas),  far  from  social  services  and  employment  opportunities.20    Both  of  these  areas  evolved  into  impoverished  and  dehumanizing  ghettos,  while  at  the  same  time  a  small  wealthy  white  elite  enjoyed  the  benefits  of  unfettered  access  to  the  countries  natural  resources.21                                                                                                                      18  Non-­‐whites  here  refers  to  the  majority  of  the  population,  which  includes  Africans,  ‘Coloureds’  and  Indians.    This  paper  will  focus  on  the  African  community,  who  also  commonly  referred  to  as  ‘blacks’.    Francie  Lund,  ‘South  Africa:  Transition  Under  Pressure,’  in  P.  Alcock  and  G.  Craig  (eds.),  International  Social  Policy:  Welfare  Regimes  in  the  Developed  World,  New  York,  Palgrave,  2001,  p.  222.  19  Thomas  Homer-­‐Dixon,  ‘Environmental  Scarcity  and  Violent  Conflict:  The  Case  of  South  Africa,’  Journal  of  Peace  Research,  Vol.  35,  No.  3,  May  1998,  p.  289.  20  The  legacy  of  racial  segregation  and  dispossession  upon  inequality  continues  to  this  day.    For  example  whites  who  comprise  just  9  percent  of  the  population  own  80  percent  of  the  land,  while  blacks,  who  comprise  80  percent  of  the  population  own  just  13  percent.    Mashile  F.  Phalane  and  Filomina  C.  Steady,  ‘Nuclear  Energy,  Hazardous  Waste,  Health,  and  Environmental  Justice  in  South  Africa:  The  Continuing  Legacy  of  Apartheid,’  in  Filomina  C.  STEADY  (ed.),  Environmental  Justice  in  the  New  Millennium:  Global  Perspectives  on  Race,  Ethnicity,  and  Human  Rights,  New  York,  Palgrave  Macmillan,  2009,  p.  189.  21  Larry  A.  Swatuk,  ‘Environmental  Policy  Making  in  Southern  Africa:  Learning  the  Hard  Way,’  in  Gordon  J.  MacDonald,  Daniel  L.  Nielson,  and  Marc  A.  Stern  (eds.),  Latin  American  Environmental  Policy  in  International  Perspective,  Boulder,  Colorado,  Westview  Press,  1997,  p.  188.     6  
    •   The  environmental  effects  of  segregation  on  black  communities  in  particular  have  been  severe.    The  homelands  themselves  were  situated  in  fragile  environments  whose  thin  topsoil  was  wholly  unsuitable  for  extensive  agricultural  requirements.22    The  resulting  legacy  of  devastating  soil  erosion  led  one  recent  observer  to  describe  the  scene  in  the  homelands  as  ‘almost  lunar  in  its  desolation.’23    Meanwhile,  in  the  shantytowns  that  still  surround  South  African  cities,  poor  blacks  live  in  hazardous  environmental  conditions,  including  inadequate  access  to  sanitation  and  uncontaminated  water  supplies.24    Due  to  a  lack  of  alternatives,  moreover,  a  heavy  reliance  on  wood  fuel  for  energy  consumption  in  both  rural  and  urban  areas  has  led  to  extensive  deforestation  and  air  pollution,  putting  further  strain  on  both  the  environment  and  the  communities  it  supports.25         Despite  the  dismantling  of  Apartheid  by  the  new  African  National  Congress  (ANC)  government  in  1994,  the  social  effects  of  environmental  racism  have  proved  persistent.    This  can  be  traced  to  two  considerable  impediments  to  change,  the  first  related  to  perceptions.    During  the  Apartheid  era,  and  indeed  throughout  South  Africa’s  history  of  colonial  domination,  environmental  management  and  conservation  supported  policies  of  racial  discrimination.    The                                                                                                                  22  The  South  African  ecosystem  is  characterized  by  land  unsuitable  for  agricultural  production,  low  rainfall,  and  soils  susceptible  to  erosion.    Indeed,  only  13.5  percent  of  South  Africa  is  considered  suitable  for  crop  production,  with  only  3  percent  of  that  considered  high  yield.    Thomas  Homer-­‐Dixon,  ‘Environmental  Scarcity  and  Violent  Conflict,’  p.  282.    23  It  is  estimated  that  during  the  20th  century,  25  percent  of  South  Africa’s  topsoil  has  been  lost  to  soil  erosion,  while  55  percent  of  the  land  is  threatened  by  desertification.    Ibid,  p.  285.  24  Mashile  F.  Phalane  and  Filomina  C.  Steady,  ‘Nuclear  Energy,  Hazardous  Waste,  Health,  and  Environmental  Justice  in  South  Africa,’  p.  190.    For  example,  in  South  Africa,  between  12  and  16  million  people  lack  potable  water,  while  21  million,  or  half  the  population,  lack  adequate  sanitation.    70  percent  of  urban  blacks,  moreover,  do  not  have  running  water  and  are  forced  to  rely  on  supplies  contaminated  by  industrial  run-­‐off.    Thomas  Homer-­‐Dixon,  ‘Environmental  Scarcity  and  Violent  Conflict,’  p.  286.  25  In  Kwa  Zula  Natal,  for  example,  it  has  been  estimated  that  in  the  fifty  years  following  the  start  of  Apartheid,  the  regions  forests  have  been  reduced  from  250  to  just  50.    Approximately  40  percent  of  the  population,  or  17  million  people,  rely  on  wood  fuel  for  cooking  and  heating.    Ibid,  p.  285.     7  
    • same  colonial  rulers  whose  settler  population  had  once  relied  upon  subsistence  activities  viewed  the  historical  crop  and  livestock  practices  of  black  communities  as  unnatural  and  ecologically  destructive.    Redefined  as  ‘poachers,’  black  communities  were  forcefully  relocated  away  from  their  ancestral  lands  to  make  way  for  game  and  nature  reserves.26    The  resulting  marginalization  of  local  communities  from  their  land  and  resources  has,  not  surprisingly,  negatively  affected  their  environmental  perceptions,  leading  to  an  ‘anti-­‐conservation’  ideology  that  has  proved  difficult  to  dislodge  in  the  post-­‐Apartheid  era.27         The  second  impediment  to  radical  change  in  South  Africa  relates  to  difficulties  associated  with  policy  implementation.    While  the  new  South  African  constitution  proclaims  a  universal  right  to  an  environment  that  is  not  harmful  to  health  or  well-­‐being,28  its  application  has  been  burdened  by  a  history  of  collusion  with  environmentally  unsound  industries  by  the  Apartheid  government,  coupled  with  an  overall  lack  of  transparency.    For  example,  the  shipping  of  hazardous  mercury  waste  to  Kwa  Zulu  Natal  by  a  British  Company,  though  discovered  in  the  late  1980s,  would  not  be  halted  until  1996.    To  this  day,  10,000  barrels  of  the  waste  remains  in  the  province,  unable  to  be  disposed  of  or  recycled  due  to  health  and  economic  considerations.    While  a  solution  is  being  found,  the  local  black  communities  face  continued  exposure  to  health  risks,  a  consequence  of  environmental  racism  that  is  to  be  found  across  the  country.29                                                                                                                    26  Larry  A.  Swatuk,  ‘Environmental  Policy  Making  in  Southern  Africa,’  pp.  196-­‐197.  27  Farieda  Khan,  ‘The  Roots  of  Environmental  Racism  and  Rise  of  Environmental  Justice  in  the  1990s,’  in  David  A.  McDonald  (ed.),  Environmental  Justice  in  South  Africa,  Cape  Town,  University  of  Cape  Town  Press,  2002,  p.  16.    28  Anthony  Butler,  Contemporary  South  Africa,  Hampshire,  Palgrave  Macmillan,  2004,  p.  144.  29  The  company,  Thor  Chemicals,  had  been  banned  from  operation  in  Britain  due  to  casualties  from  mercury  poisoning  and  the  imposition  of  tougher  environmental  laws.    It  is  not  surprising,  therefore,  that  workers  at  the  South  African  site  tested  positive  to  mercury  poisoning,  and  indeed  the  Mngeweni  River,  which  flows  through  nearby  communities  was  found  to  have  mercury  levels  1,500  times  higher  than  international  acceptable  levels.    For  a  full  description  of  the  saga,  see  Mashile  F.  Phalane  and  Filomina  C.  Steady,  ‘Nuclear  Energy,  Hazardous  Waste,  Health,  and  Environmental  Justice  in  South  Africa,’  pp.  195-­‐198.     8  
    • (iii)  Brazil     The  history  of  racial  discrimination  in  Brazil  is,  at  least  outwardly,  quite  different  to  that  of  the  United  States  and  South  Africa.    Despite  a  similar  history  of  colonial  domination,  marginalization  of  indigenous  populations,  and  slavery,  the  issue  of  race  has  long  been  avoided  in  the  Brazilian  public  sphere.30    Racism  was  effectively  ‘swept  under  the  carpet,’  especially  during  the  military  dictatorship  that  ran  from  1964  to  1985,  with  societal  hierarchy  being  explained  by  cultural  and  class  differences  rather  than  race.31  Yet  since  the  establishment  of  democracy  in  the  mid-­‐1980s  a  significant  level  of  prejudice  and  racism  towards  Indians  and  those  with  African  heritage  has  bubbled  to  the  surface.32    This  phenomenon  is  what  anthropologist  João  Costa  Vargas  termed  the  ‘hyperconsciousness/negation  of  race  dialectic’,  or  the  ‘tension  between  a  pervasive  belief  that  race  should  neither  be  talked  about  nor  addressed,’  and  the  reality  of  persistent  racial  discrimination  throughout  Brazil.33     In  contrast  to  the  issue  of  race,  the  Brazilian  environment,  and  specifically  the  Amazon,  has  historically  been  at  the  forefront  of  the  nation’s  consciousness.    For  Brazilians  from  the  poor  to  the  affluent,  the  Amazon  is  an  imaginary  landscape  of  wealth  waiting  to  be  exploited,  a  ‘land  without  people  for  people  without  land’  as  the  military  regime  aptly  put  it.34    Indigenous  populations,  and  other  communities  who  had  moved  there  centuries  earlier,  are  therefore  largely  ignored,  and  deforestation  for  the  purposes  of  large-­‐scale  grazing,  mineral                                                                                                                  30  Luiz  C.  Barbosa,  The  Brazilian  Amazon  Rainforest:  Global  Ecopolitics,  Development,  and  Democracy,  Lanham,  MD,  University  Press  of  America,  2000,  p.  102.  31  George  M.  Fredrickson,  ‘Race  and  Racism  in  Historical  Perspective:  Comparing  the  United  States,  South  Africa,  and  Brazil,’  in  Charles  V.  Hamilton  et  al.  (eds.),  Beyond  Racism:  Race  and  Inequality  in  Brazil,  South  Africa,  and  the  United  States,  Boulder,  Colorado,  Lynne  Rienner  Publishers,  2001,  pp.  1-­‐2.  32  Kathryn  Hochstetler  and  Margaret  E.  Keck,  Greeng  Brazil:  Environmental  Activism  in  State  and  Society,  Durham,  Duke  University  Press,  2007,  pp.  183-­‐184.  33  Christen  A.  Smith,  ‘Strategies  of  Confinement:  Environmental  Injustice  and  Police  Violence  in  Brazil,’  in  Filomina  C.  Steady  (ed.),  Environmental  Justice  in  the  New  Millennium:  Global  Perspectives  on  Race,  Ethnicity,  and  Human  Rights,  New  York,  Palgrave  Macmillan,  2009,  p.  93.  34  The  Amazon  covers  60  percent  of  Brazil’s  total  area.    Ibid,  p.  142.     9  
    • exploration,  and  agricultural  production,  has  proceeded  at  an  alarming  rate.35    Resistance  movements,  supported  by  external  pressure  for  environmental  justice  from  NGOs  and  international  organizations,  have  progressively  secured  portions  of  the  Amazon  as  Indian  reserves  since  the  mid-­‐1980s.36    More  often,  however,  the  establishment  of  nature  conservation  areas,  and  the  redefinition  of  Indian  subsistence  activities  as  ‘poaching’,  have  led  to  the  forceful  removal  of  communities  and  racial  hostility.37    For  ordinary  Brazilians,  moreover,  who  rely  for  their  survival  on  agriculture,  lumber,  commerce,  and  mining  in  the  Amazon,  it  is  difficult  to  understand  programs  aimed  at  the  protection  of  small  communities  ‘hidden’  in  the  forest.38         There  has  been,  due  to  the  significance  of  the  Amazon  to  global  environmental  health,  sustained  international  pressure  over  the  last  thirty  years  for  greater  protection  in  the  region.    Often  viewed  as  an  attempt  at  environmental  imperialism,  however,  the  results  have  been  mixed.39    The  state,  burdened  with  considerable  foreign  debt  and  economic  instability  has  repeatedly  resorted  to  resource  extraction  to  the  detriment  of  indigenous  populations.40    In  any  case,  it  would  be  mistake  to  assume  that  the  state  can  simply  legislate  problems  in  the  Amazon  away.    The  strong  federalist  system  put  in  place  by  the  1988  constitution  has  resulted  in  a  dearth  of  central  planning  and  policy  formulation  –  the  state  is  effectively  absent  in  the  region.41    The  economic  value  to  be  gained  from  land  grabbing  and  resource  exploitation,  moreover,  has  made  the  area  ripe  for  criminality.    In  a  video  released  by  the  Indigenous  Council  for  Roraima  in  June  1998,  for  example,  gunman  hired  by  commercial  farmers                                                                                                                  35  Though  the  rate  of  deforestation  is  heavily  contested,  ranging  from  a  total  loss  of  8  percent  to  25  percent,  it  is  generally  accepted  that  the  rate  is  increasing  year  by  year.      J.  Timmons  Roberts  and  Nikki  Demetria  Thanos,  Troube  in  Paradise:  Globalization  and  Environmental  Crises  in  Latin  America,  New  York,  Routledge,  2003,  pp.  139-­‐142.  36  Luiz  C.  Barbosa,  The  Brazilian  Amazon  Rainforest,  p.  99.  37  J.  Timmons  Roberts  and  Nikki  Demetria  Thanos,  Troube  in  Paradise,  p.  79.  38  Kathryn  Hochsettler  and  Margaret  E.  Keck,  Greening  Brazil,  pp.  140-­‐142.  39  Luiz  C.  Barbosa,  The  Brazilian  Amazon  Rainforest,  p.  83.  40  J.  Timmons  Roberts  and  Nikki  Demetria  Thanos,  Troube  in  Paradise,  pp.  168-­‐169.  41  Kathryn  Hochsettler  and  Margaret  E.  Keck,  Greening  Brazil,  p.  147.     10  
    • were  seen  to  be  firing  upon  an  indigenous  community  in  an  effort  to  force  them  out  of  a  state  designated  reserve  area.    Charged  with  protection  of  these  communities,  local  authorities  are  either  unwilling  or  unable  to  do  so.42    As  one  Brazilian  journalist  described,  ‘[c]riminality  has  turned  Amazonia  into  an  enormous  green  Sicily.’43    Thus  despite  concerted  efforts,  some  marginally  successful,  the  deforestation  of  the  Amazon,  and  the  risk  to  the  survival  of  Indian  communities,  has  continued  apace.44        Environmental  Racism,  Risk,  and  the  Weight  of  History     What  can  be  drawn  out  from  the  above  examples  is  the  effect  that  historical  social  policies  can  have  upon  the  distribution  of  environmental  risks.    The  regulations  that  govern  risk  distribution  are  ultimately  the  responsibility  of  states,  and  are  determined  by  their  particular  social,  economic,  and  environmental  policies.45    This  is  what  Ulrich  Beck  identified  as  the  ‘risk  society’  –  one  in  which  the  risks  of  environmental  hazards,  which  have  been  introduced  through  modern  production  and  consumption  patterns,  are  systematically  apportioned  by  central  authorities.46    Despite  the  abstract  nature  of  environmental  risk,  however,  it  often  manifests  itself  as  real  harm  to  real  people.47    As  we  have  seen,  these  harms  and  the  risk  of  them,  are  not  evenly  distributed  in  the  United  States,  Brazil,  and  South  Africa,  and  fall  disproportionately  on  racial  groups  within  those  countries.    This  ‘environmental  racism’  is  a  result  of  the  historical  development  of  their  social  policy  regimes.     Certainly,  as  our  framework  suggests,  the  fundamental  nature  of  these  regimes  can  be  differentiated  on  the  basis  of  their  particular  historical  development.    Yet  regardless  of  historical  specificity,  all  three  have  these  two                                                                                                                  42  Ibid,  pp.  143-­‐144.  43  Lúcio  Flávio  quoted  in  ibid,  p.  151.  44  Ibid,  p.  141.  45  Roger  C.  Field,  ‘Risk  and  Justice:  Capitalist  Production  and  the  Environment,’  in  Daniel  Faber  (ed.),  New  York,  Guilford  Press,  1998,  p.  86.  46  Ulrich  Beck,  Ecological  Enlightenment:  Essays  on  the  Politics  of  the  Risk  Society,  Atlantic  Highlands,  NJ,  Humanities  Press,  1995,  pp.  2-­‐4.  47  Roger  C.  Field,  ‘Risk  and  Justice,’  p.  81.     11  
    • mutually  reinforcing  issues  in  common  –  racial  discrimination,  and  the  uneven  distribution  of  environmental  risk.    Dealing  with  racism  first,  we  can  note  that  all  three  countries  have  a  history  of  racial  discrimination  that  includes  colonisation,  marginalization  of  indigenous  communities,  and  slavery,  and  which  manifested  itself  within  the  very  structures  of  their  societies.    The  issues  of  environmental  justice  discussed  in  this  paper  are  all  tied  to  these  structural  inequities,  and  while  they  are  not  maintained  by  the  state,  forms  of  physical,  symbolic,  or  structural  violence  serve  to  keep  them  in  place.48    In  this  way,  racist  social  policies  have  influenced  contemporary  social  forces,  which  in  turn  have  produced  racist  environmental  outcomes.     While  there  can  be  no  doubt  that  racism  is  a  factor  in  the  distribution  of  environmental  risk,  another  common  factor,  present  in  each  country’s  social  policy  regime,  is  just  as  influential.    The  United  States,  as  a  liberal  welfare  state,  leaves  the  distribution  of  ‘goods’,  environmental  risk  among  them,  to  market  forces.    Brazil,  as  a  liberal  informal  welfare  regime,  has  been  pressured  by  external  forces  to  instigate  a  similar  system,  albeit  only  covering  the  formal  sector.    Those  outside  this  sector  are  arguably  at  the  mercy  of  market  forces  to  an  even  greater  degree.    Lastly,  in  South  Africa,  the  legacy  of  Apartheid  has  left  the  new  insecurity  regime  with  little  choice  but  to  follow  suit.    Thus,  market  forces,  heavily  influenced  by  the  weight  of  racist  histories,  distribute  environmental  risk  in  a  discriminatory  manner.    Conclusions       Using  an  extended  analytical  framework  the  environmental  policies  of  the  United  States,  South  Africa,  and  Brazil,  have  been  analysed  in  terms  of  their  racial  dimensions.    I  have  identified  race,  and  its  effect  on  the  distribution  of  environmental  risk,  as  a  determining  factor  in  environmental  outcomes  within  the  social  policy  regimes  of  these  countries.    This  result  is  based  upon  similar  racial  histories  within  each  country,  and  irrespective  of  particularities  in  the  development  of  their  social  policy  regimes.                                                                                                                    48  George  M.  Fredrickson,  ‘Race  and  Racism  in  Historical  Perspective,’  p.  24.     12  
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