Troy Abel

Praxis for Environmental Justice

Troy Abel

Department of Environmental Studies


Three decades ago, my undergraduate studies did not prepare me to recognize environmental racism when I saw it for the first time. I was completing a public and environmental health bachelors of science at Indiana University. In 1988, I began to apply my environmental studies through an internship with an Indianapolis manufacturing company. Stewart Warner Southwind of Indianapolis specialized in vehicle and aircraft heaters and radiators for the military. Our country was on the precipice of the first Gulf War. But, my first workplace as a twenty-year old environmental professional was a sprawling, half-million square foot industrial facility slowly being shuttered. A new plant in another part of the state would replace this industrial relic. However, this factory still had a heart of significant manufacturing including of military vehicle radiators.

electroplating aircraft factory

Other areas of the plant had been abandoned and there were dozens of leaks in the roof, large enough to fill a fifty-five gallon drum in a few minutes. My unpaid internship duties involved searching for these drums and other containers of unlabeled hazardous chemicals, sealing them, and labeling them to comply with federal waste disposal regulations. In a hot and humid Indiana summer, and without air conditioning in the plant, it was a sweaty search. My explorations revealed a kind of well-lit industrial shop of horrors. I regularly encountered torn bags of toxic powders or drums of unidentified hazardous waste. But the large plating line area offered some daily relief with its sweet, cool air conditioning. There were also hoods to vent off fugitive emissions from a series of huge dip tanks, but one day, something was terribly wrong.

sanitation workers on strike sign

After sliding through the floor-to -ceiling insulating strips, my eyes began tearing. The hairs of my nose burned. The taste of acid washed over my tongue. My upper respiratory system went into full alert warning me of danger. But, six employees obliviously worked away on the line. Perhaps protected somewhat by their proximity to a working hood, one or two of the other vents were malfunctioning. A fugitive toxic emission filled the air and I yelled “Hey, something’s wrong” above the industrial noise. “You gotta get out” I implored. Six workers, all nonwhite, began to file slowly past me. But, one stared intently into my eyes and asked: “Where were you twenty years ago?” I’ve been haunted by that question for three decades.

In 1968, I was two years old and our nation was in turmoil. Presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy was assassinated as was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who was in Memphis supporting striking sanitation workers. Anti-war protests, the civil rights movement, and urban riots were dominating America’s politics.

hazardous waste sign

The next year, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring had awakened suburban and rural Americans to not only pesticide dangers, but the risks of a multitude of toxic pollutants threatening our air, water, land, and health. In 1970, President Richard Nixon announced the decade of the environment by signing the National Environmental Policy Act and then the Clean Air Act. The first Earth Day was held, Nixon established the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and he signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) into law. The Clean Water Act and 14 other environmental laws were enacted in the 70s. In the 80s, another Republican President would authorize a national “Superfund” to pay for the cleanup of toxic waste dumps and Congress would amend 10 other environmental laws. Yet, all those policies didn’t protect those workers that day in 1988. My university classes also overlooked such racial disparities.

Environmental Racism

Unbeknownst to me or my white environmental health professors in 1988, a year-old study on the location of hazardous waste landfills, entitled Toxic Wastes and Race, was changing my field and rattling US environmental policy institutions. Investigators working with the United Church of Christ (UCC) reported in 1987 that three times as many non-white residents lived in zip codes with toxic dumps than in communities without them. Garnering newspaper coverage across the country, the study began to draw national attention to the distributional scrutiny of race, class, and pollution and coined the term environmental racism.

race bias article

The study propelled Environmental Justice (EJ) to the forefront of the U.S. environmental policy agenda. In response, EPA formed an environmental equity workgroup in 1990 and then an EJ Office in 1992. Most significantly, President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 12898 in 1994 requiring all federal agencies to ensure their policies and programs fostered the achievement of EJ. It was codified as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.”

"The institutional blind spots fostered by my education were reinforced in the environmental policies overlooking pollution disparities and their socioeconomic drivers. My Southwind experience and the broader historical context of environmental racism became a rhythm in my teaching and scholarship with my students and communities in the praxis of environmental justice."

But, I remained unprepared to connect the unfair treatment and meaningless involvement experienced by those nonwhite workers in 1988 with the structures of my environmental profession. The institutional blind spots fostered by my education were reinforced in the environmental policies overlooking pollution disparities and their socioeconomic drivers. My Southwind experience and the broader historical context of environmental racism became a rhythm in my teaching and scholarship with my students and communities in the praxis of environmental justice. But, it was a syncopated beat at first.

superfund site sign

For instance, in the same year Toxic Wastes and Race appeared, the United Nations’ World Commission on Environment and Development published Our Common Future. It defined another new environmental concept that overshadowed EJ. Sustainability was defined as: “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (WCED 1987, 43). Sustainability is now a prominent feature of environmental strategies and often depicted in a three-circle diagram sometimes called the triple-bottom line where communities, industry, and government achieve a nexus of ecology, economy, and equity (E3). It’s also conceptualized as the balancing of the planet, profit, and people (P3). This concept became a major force in the environmental pedagogies of the times. Sustainability still dominates today when professors and students try to get beyond the gloom and doom data of environmental decline and conceptualize win-win solutions.

"These intersecting and often polarizing conflicts are at the root of some of our most intractable environmental challenges. Therefore, my research programs strive to illuminate these conflicts, their consequences, and responses. My teaching helps students engage these issues in and beyond the classroom. And, I strive to serve those in the region struggling against the policies, organizations and practices that have institutionalized environmental racism."

However, this ecotopian perspective contradicts EJ and informs much of my teaching and research. See more on sustainability’s tension with EJ. These intersecting and often polarizing conflicts are at the root of some of our most intractable environmental challenges. Therefore, my research programs strive to illuminate these conflicts, their consequences, and responses. My teaching helps students engage these issues in and beyond the classroom. And, I strive to serve those in the region struggling against the policies, organizations and practices that have institutionalized environmental racism. Shaped by a drumbeat that started in 1968 and reverberating through my learning, research, teaching, and service from 1988 to today, this is my praxis for EJ.

Becoming a Scholar-Teacher for EJ

"So there I was, more than a decade later, and I literally could smell, taste, and feel that our nation’s environmental regulations weren’t enough. I could also see that the manufacturing business could be doing better. I felt it in my gut. To this day, I know we can do better, and we have to. So, I teach and research to solve these policy puzzles."

My work at Southwind mainly involved compliance for the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of 1976. So there I was, more than a decade later, and I literally could smell, taste, and feel that our nation’s environmental regulations weren’t enough. I could also see that the manufacturing business could be doing better. I felt it in my gut. To this day, I know we can do better, and we have to. So, I teach and research to solve these policy puzzles like the environmental injustice I witnessed that day in 1988.

I was trained to see the world and many of its challenges through not only a public and environmental health science lens, but with the cultural perspective of just one country. In my final spring semester, I studied abroad in the Netherlands at Erasmus University. There, I learned new environmental policy approaches that went beyond end-of-the-pipe controls and adversarial strategies dominant in those foundational U.S. laws. Dutch businesses, government, universities, and labor groups were pursuing pollution prevention, clean manufacturing, and even zero waste. These seemingly radical strategies were both shocking and refreshing. Most of my classes were public administration, law, and policy studies. I began to realize how science, decision making, and outcomes were fundamentally shaped by public policy.

Rotterdam cityscape

I imagined that my 1988 internship experience would never happen in the Netherlands. So instead of pursuing another science degree, I began to research graduate programs in public policy and administration. Then, one of my IU professors accepted an endowed professorship at George Mason University (GMU) in a new public policy graduate program. Roger Stough and I met and I eventually embarked on a new direction to study the innovative strategies for the second and third generations of U.S. environmental policy taking shape in the nineties. Most of the texts in this era overlooked environmental racism.

In 1999, two of my graduate school professors mentored myself and another doctoral student in the development and submission of a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for a project titled “Social vulnerability analysis: spatial and hazard screening of toxic chemical releases” that addressed the following questions:

  • How does change in scale affect the analysis and outcomes of correlation between environmental hazard locations and socioeconomic variables?
  • Are spatial clusters of environmental hazards and community socioeconomic variables evident in metropolitan areas?
  • Can a hierarchy of metropolitan hazards be discerned across the metropolitan riskscape?

Our proposal was funded and these questions have also shaped my research program on environmental injustice and its political geography. More importantly, those two professors helped me and my peers recognize the potential value of our scholarly voices.

One of those two professors, and the principal investigator on that NSF grant, was the Dean of George Mason University’s (GMU) Graduate School. Kingsley Haynes welcomed me and my peers to graduate studies at GMU in the fall 1992 convocation. He rhetorically asked what we thought was different about becoming a graduate student?

air polluting smoke stacks

He described how the classes had larger numbers as prefixes. Three and four hundred classes corresponded to third and fourth year undergraduate courses. Now we would take five, six, seven, and even eight hundred numbered classes. We would read more each week for sure. We would have smaller classes, more freedom, but more responsibility too. Dean Haynes then described how we would best understand by imagining the day of our graduation and the regalia we would wear.

Undergraduates would have the same black robes and square hats. Everyone would ceremoniously move the tassel from the right to the left. Some would have cords of gold and a special title. But the graduate students, Master’s and Doctoral students, would have a scarf. Formally called a hood, it’s striped with the colors reflecting one field or another. But the real difference, Kingsley said, would be the words a graduate student would hear from him on that stage. “Welcome to the community of scholars.”

After seven years of graduate coursework and starting in my undergraduate research program, many professors helped me confront environmental policy challenges with empirical research and become an environmental policy scientist; I strive to do the same for my students become an environmental policy scientist and I strive to do the same for my students. See Acknowledgments.

Deliberative EJ Engagement across the Curriculum and Campuses

I came to Huxley College at WWU in 2006, with over a decade of teaching experience from two different tenure-track appointments. This teaching journey began early in my graduate studies in an honors seminar where we had lively discussion sessions on each week’s readings. I remember with great clarity how the professor began one session trying to engage one of the seminar’s quieter students. With great frustration, the student described how hard she found it to understand the readings until, pointing at me, she said “he explains them!” In 1994, I began splitting my graduate assistantship between research support and teaching. I continue to relish in those teaching moments where I am more than a lecturer, but an enabler for students as they advance their understanding and thinking in and out of the classroom.

Philosophy for Teaching EJ

My pedagogical philosophy is best captured in what some would call deliberative engagement. Beyond debates about positions or trying to reduce the information deficit of the public, deliberative engagement involves the consideration of not just experts and data, but also experiences and values. According to the Kettering Foundation, “Deliberation can be understood as the cultivation of a set of capacities that can lead to a new construction of knowledge, one that comes out of the public’s work together.” I therefore strive to foster a discursive learning environment that engages my students with the challenges of environmental injustice from the beginning of their environmental policy program.

In Discussion as a Way of Teaching, Brookfield and Preskill (2005) argue that the university classroom “may be one of the few arenas in which students can reasonably experience how democratic conversation feels.” In other words, I try to foster their meaningful involvement of all my students in classroom deliberations about many of our environmental challenges. Moreover, I’ve been regularly engaging students for over a decade on the topic of environmental justice. The antithesis of environmental racism, I believe this is one of the toughest environmental problems we rarely discuss as teachers, practitioners, and students.

"I’ve been regularly engaging students for over a decade on the topic of environmental justice. The antithesis of environmental racism, I believe this is one of the toughest environmental problems we rarely discuss as teachers, practitioners, and students."

I strive to ensure that my students are not as unprepared as I was in 1988 to recognize the environmental racism those nonwhite workers had endured. Therefore, I strive to engage my students with what one scholar described as a serious dissonance between a “just sustainability” discourse and the “environmentalist-stewardship sustainability” tradition (Agyeman 2005, p. 91). Likewise, another scholar pessimistically predicted that social justice and sustainability were incompatible (Dobson 2003). In both my undergraduate and graduate classes, the latter perspective dominated our texts as we studied the oversimplified dichotomy of conservation versus preservation and white environmental icons like John Muir, Gifford Pinchot, Dennis Hayes, and Rachel Carson.

Carson’s Silent Spring for example is frequently described as a catalyst for the environmental movement and the policies it spurred. However, in 1993, Robert Gottlieb published a new perspective on America’s environmental movement. The book challenges standard histories of environmentalism by linking its ascendance in the sixties and seventies to earlier movements that were not traditionally considered environmental. In particular, Gottlieb documents the importance of class, gender, race and ethnicity issues in the environmental movement’s history and evolution. Forcing the Spring represented the beginnings of a new and revisionist period of environmental history. Therefore, I assign one or two chapters of this text in our 300 level introduction to Environmental Studies History and Policy.

In his second edition of Forcing the Spring, Gottlieb (2005, 45) observed that “by exploring such diverse histories as slave narratives about the land or oil industry-related pollution concerns in working-class neighborhoods or fire-suppression strategies, whether in Malibu, Oaxaca, or the Sierras, environmental historians in the past dozen years have also broadened our understanding of what constitutes an environmental question.” More recently, several new strands of this revisionist environmental history are represented in over a dozen books. See Revisionist Environmental History explanation. My reading of these texts inspires me to offer a theme for one or two sessions on a big idea found in these seminal publications.

Presenting EJ Challenges

Rachel Carson portrait

For instance, in their first Environmental History and Policy course (ENVS 305) last winter, Huxley majors in our Peninsulas Program were in their second quarter and first week in a Jan 10 session. I reminded them of the upcoming holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King. And consistent with my theming every week with a “big idea,” I asked them to think about this provocative claim derived from Zimiring’s penultimate chapter: Dr. King was assassinated fighting environmental racism. When we met again after Jan. 15, I showed them the EPA’s environmental justice timeline which starts on February 11, 1968. This was the beginning of the Memphis Sanitation Strike and the EPA website description follows. The first time African Americans had mobilized a national, broad-based group to oppose what they considered environmental injustices. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. investigated an environmental injustice incident and advocated for better working conditions and pay for striking Memphis, Tennessee, garbage workers. Two months later, King was assassinated on April 4 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.

I also present the EJ challenge in Science in the Policy Process (See ENVS 450 Syllabus). The students begin their deliberative engagement with this social justice challenge by reading my chapter in The Routledge Handbook of Environmental Justice and viewing two online videos that discuss EJ from two of the most popular information platforms in recent times—TEDx and The Daily Show. These treatments of EJ are then complemented during lecture by introducing two voices from my South Seattle research on the sharp edge of environmental injustice in supposedly one of the most sustainable cities in North America.

I use a pseudonym to protect one person’s identity in the following summary:

John participated in my facilitated group mapping project in 2014 where I asked participants to describe one air pollution experience they or their family had faced. His visceral soccer story about a South Seattle experience is disconcerting for the Emerald City. He recounted smelling and tasting metallic emissions while his adolescent son practiced soccer in one of the city’s parks. I recount how his voice carried both anguish and fear for a father living a playing in a different Seattle where a small industrial operation and its pollution shared a border with his child’s playground.

Second, I show the first part of a video recorded by one of our visual journalism majors. In this Surrounded by Industry story, Kelly’s voice is what a viewer first hears as she recounts how on the one hand, she fears her son could contract asthma from the air pollution in South Seattle. On the other hand, she describes that it’s not economically feasible for the family to follow their doctor’s advice and move.

These voices allow students to recognize how environmental racism is not some abstract and academic concept. It’s happening to people in Seattle, and it will likely be a challenge they themselves will confront in their professional lives if not sooner.

Continuum of Community Engagement

Community leadership flow diagram

For their third class in the environmental policy sequence, EJ is a theme for our Environmental Policy Analysis course (See ENVS 454 Syllabus). At the beginning, students engage in a normative assessment of their professional futures in response to three questions:

  1. Who does an environmental professional serve?
  2. Who has and should have influence in a democracy?
  3. Finally, is the role of an environmental professional purely about providing information and recommendations or to educate stakeholders and the public?

In a lecture, I also introduce the following continuum of community engagement in research. This exercise moves them beyond those foundational questions.

Typically, policy analysts and most environmental professionals work on the left hand side of this continuum. I then describe my own progression across this spectrum. In my early work, my research was on communities and then shared through outreach. Communication flowed from me to the community. For example, my first EJ publication about Seattle’s skewed riskscape was featured on the Seattle P-I website and titled “Is Seattle creating ghettos of poverty and pollution?” I then explain how this research described what South Seattle environmental justice groups had been protesting about for decades. Their Duwamish River was Seattle’s most polluted waterbody and their air quality was the worst in the city and probably in the state. However, I only moved to the second stage when community activists invited me to join a proposal for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2014 Collaborative Problem Solving for Environmental Justice program. See slide for Seattle’s Segregating Riskscape.

Collaborative Research Projects

We were successful and I describe the third step in my progression along the collaboration continuum above by introducing my students to the Duwamish Community Action for Clean Air Project. In 2014, my research evolved to be with the community. However, I also ensured that this collaboration became an important experiential opportunity for my students beyond the classroom. On my WWU website, I share this perspective on my approach to teaching:

“My scholarship informs a teaching program where I have been committed to fostering an interactive classroom and student research collaborations. I know from my own scholarship and the growing body of work on learning that becoming an environmental problem-solver is more than just awareness of information gained from lectures and readings. Environmental leadership is better fostered by the alchemy of disciplinary knowledge, responsibility, self-efficacy, and experiential education.”

Mobile Device App Development

Thus, I incorporated graduate and undergraduate student opportunities in what I called the “Mapps for Environmental Justice Initiative.” It combined mapping with mobile device app development to help support the Duwamish Valley communities.

ferris wheel in front of cranes

First, instead of asking for a share of the EPA grant resources, I told our community partners that WWU, my students, and I had resources to contribute to the clean air project. For example, every Huxley student is required to take ten credits of experiential education coursework in the form of either an internship, study abroad, senior thesis, or senior project (ENVS 498a, b, c, or d). We translated this requirement into a 300-hour obligation for the students and in return, students have the opportunity to work for environmental groups, agencies, or help conduct research with graduate students and/or faculty. I then recruited then graduate student Stacy Clauson and former undergraduates Taylor Obata and Lauren Templeton to contribute to the project and they became critical contributors to the collaboration. In fact, this kind of experiential education where I collaborate with students in the engagement of environmental justice challenges is a centerpiece of my WWU career.

In 2011, two WWU undergraduates collaborated with me and the environmental justice organization “The Forgotten People” based in Tuba City, AZ. Their mission is to improve the well-being of the Dine’ people who live on the Navajo Nation in Arizona. After a presentation I made at an EPA conference, representatives from the Forgotten People asked if I could help them create maps similar to the ones I had presented from my Seattle research. I shared this request in my environmental policy analysis course and undergraduates Jarrett Wheeler and Bob Sabie volunteered to collaborate and earn ENVS 498 credits. Their reports were titled The Right for Environmental Self-Determination in Diné Country and Participatory mapping and environmental justice for the Navajo Nation respectively. The second project also involved the development of an online mapping tool that we submitted to the EPA’s Apps for the Environment Challenge. Sabie’s work won national runner-up for the student competition.

Participatory Action Research

This participatory action research and engagement with EJ challenges became a foundation and inspiration for ten more EJ related student collaborations. These students progressed with me from the classroom to their projects by hearing and reading about the voices of environmental injustice, hearing about my work and others on environmental disparities in class presentations, reading and contemplating my publications on Seattle’s riskscape, and then transforming into a voice for environmental justice. See Participatory Action Research details.

Interdisciplinary, Integrative, and Intersectional

During my first ten years, my teaching and research developed into an approach that I often summarize in three words: interdisciplinary, integrative, and intersectional. Nobel Prize winner Lin Ostrom has written many influential things but her phrase that “there are no panaceas” always strikes the strongest chord for me. When confronting the challenges of a warming climate, polarizing politics, and skewing inequalities there is no single discipline, theory, or methodology that will lead us to the solutions needed for our changing natural and human ecologies, the regional and local impacts, and how communities in turn reshape those systems. Our traditional academic silos often stifle the imagination demanded by today’s social-environmental dilemmas.

My sustained teaching and scholarly efforts are not siloed activities, but exemplary of a philosophy, pedagogy and practice where “the dash between teacher and scholar is a link, not a line of demarcation” as one academic phrased this philosophy. My EJ praxis aims to amplify the voices like I heard back in 1988 on the plating line. I bring the voices of those experiencing pollution disparities into my classes so that today’s environmental students see and hear the challenges of power and privilege in the environmental policy process. And, I pursue EJ praxis to do what my professors did for me. I seek to enable and amplify the voices of my students because I believe they matter.

Identity Exploration Techniques

I also recognize that becoming an effective voice for environmental justice also demands some preparation. I have implored former students and colleagues who mostly are Caucasian like me that they first need to interrogate their white privilege. Then, they need to listen.

White Environmentalism/Environmental Racism Workshop

I have begun to model that first process in a facilitated workshop presentation I developed in collaboration with political scientist Dr. Vernon Johnson (WWU). We’ve alternatively labeled them “What’s up with White environmentalism” for a Department of Environmental Studies’ brown bag and “Confessions of an Environmental Racist” for a Bellingham environmental group’s workshop. See presentation slides.

"I interrogate my own white privilege as an environmental academic and go so far as calling myself racist. Not as an individual, but as part of the same system that perpetuates environmental racism."

We began each by introducing participants to the work of Robin DiAngelo who is a White professor, anti-racist educator, and author of What It Means to be White. She also wrote an op-ed for the Seattle Times in 2014 that we use as a primer for the brown bag and workshop participants. She summarized some well-documented patterns and beliefs that make it difficult for white people to understand racism as a system. For instance, “whites are taught to see themselves as individuals, rather than as part of a racial group” according to DiAngelo. She continues: “seeing ourselves as unracialized individuals, we take umbrage when generalizations are made about us as a group.” And by extension, whites are even more uncomfortable discussing structural racism. Therefore, I interrogate my own white privilege as an environmental academic and go so far as calling myself racist. Not as an individual, but as part of the same system that perpetuates environmental racism.

Conversation and Consensus Workshop

Second, Dr. Johnson and I employed a facilitation technique developed by the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA). Its focused conversation and consensus workshop methods are designed to provide meaningful dialogue and broaden perspectives. The technique involves four kinds of prompts: Objective, Reflective, Interpretive, and Decisional (ORID). They also are known as the what, gut, so what, and now what. We ask volunteers from the group to share experiential facts by responding to the question: “What experiences of environmental injustice have you, your family, or your community had?” Next, reflective question prompts (how did that make you feel) are posed and designed to elicit and acknowledge the emotions, memories, and initial associations of participants.

In the second part of the workshop, participants were organized into small groups to begin brainstorming. The following interpretive prompt was asked. “When environmental justice is being achieved, what is going on?” Interpretive questions should be designed to elicit the sharing of experiences and meanings, build shared awareness, and identify options and possibilities. Finally, we gave the small groups a decisional prompt to elicit collective opinions and resolve that may lead to future actions. We asked: “What’s going on when [the environmental group] is helping achieve environmental justice. This method requires facilitators to listen intently throughout the experience. The results from this technique have been positive and I plan on employing it in a future class.

Recent Activities

In this final section, I’d like to share what has been one of my rewarding engagements for environmental justice. With college and department funding, I was able to offer a four-day Environmental and Health Justice Leadership Program (see student EHJLP Journal) in mid-August for eight Cleveland High School students. We designed the program to help them examine Seattle’s patterns of privilege and oppression that led to their community’s environmental injustices and organized the engagement around the following question. “Are all of Seattle’s neighborhoods achieving environmental and health justice?”

Cleavland justice leadership

We further developed three learning objectives for our students. First, participants will continue to apply an integrative approach to understanding the human and environment interactions that result in environmental and health disparities. Second, participants will produce, interpret, and apply research in a solution-oriented context. Finally, participants will work collaboratively to identify and analyze complex environmental and health injustices, recognize diverse stakeholder perspectives, and synthesize creative solutions.

Cleveland city street

I will conclude by quoting one part of the nomination letter from my College’s Diversity and Community Affairs Committee. “I think most notable has been a shift in his own approach as he recently told me about involving the Cleveland students. As he put it, in his work going back to St. Louis, he was serving or bringing in the communities as part of his scholarship. Now, however, he said he is taking himself to them. I would say he is giving himself over to the community his research actually serves. This is a high model for our students to witness and partake in.”

Thank you for reading and giving me an opportunity to connect and reflect on my decade’s work: engaging in the work that connects environmental justice analysis to action and continuing the difficult praxis that interrupts and changes the oppressive social, economic, and institutional patterns that fuel environmental racism.

References and Resources

Agyeman, Julian. 2005. Sustainable Communities and the Challenge of Environmental Justice. NYU Press.

Blum, Elizabeth D. 2008. Love Canal Revisited: Race, Class, and Gender in Environmental Activism . University Press of Kansas.

Brookfield, Stephen D., and Stephen Preskill. 2005. Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for Democratic Classrooms. San Francisco, CA: Wiley.

Campbell, Scott. 1996. “Green Cities, Growing Cities, Just Cities?: Urban Planning and the Contradictions of Sustainable Development.” Journal of the American Planning Association 62 (3): 296–312.

DiAngelo, Robin. 2012. What Does It Mean to Be White?: Developing White Racial Literacy. New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Dobson, Andrew. 2003. “Social Justice and Environmental Sustainability: Ne’er the Twain Shall Meet.” In Just Sustainabilities: Development in an Unequal World, edited by Julian Agyeman, Robert Doyle Bullard, and Bob Evans. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


Gottlieb, Robert. 2005. Forcing the Spring: The Transformation of the American Environmental Movement. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.

Hurley, Andrew. 2009. Environmental Inequalities: Class, Race, and Industrial Pollution in Gary, Indiana, 1945-1980. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA). 2000. Technology of Participation: Group Facilitation Methods: Effective Methods for Participation. Chicago, IL: Institute of Cultural Affairs.

Klingle, Matthew W. 2007. Emerald City: An Environmental History of Seattle. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Mazmanian, Daniel A., and Michael E. Kraft. 1999. Toward Sustainable Communities: Transition and Transformations in Environmental Policy. MIT Press.

Montrie, Chad. 2018. The Myth of Silent Spring: Rethinking the Origins of American Environmentalism. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.

Pellow, David Naguib. 2004. Garbage Wars: The Struggle for Environmental Justice in Chicago. MIT Press.

Taylor, Dorceta E. 2016. The Rise of the American Conservation Movement: Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Thrush, Coll. 2017. Native Seattle: Histories from the Crossing-Over Place, Second Edition. University of Washington Press.

Zimring, Carl A. 2017. Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism in the United States. New York, NY: New York University Press.

World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). 1987. Our Common Future. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

United Church of Christ, (UCC) Commission for Racial Justice. 1987. “Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States : A National Report on the Racial and Socio-Economic Characteristics of Communities with Hazardous Waste Sites. New York, N.Y.: United Church of Christ.

Troy D. Abel’s EJ Bibliography

Abel, Troy D. 2008. “Skewed Riskscapes and Environmental Injustice: A Case Study of Metropolitan St. Louis.” Environmental Management 42 (2): 232–48. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-008-9126-2.

Abel, Troy D., and Mark Stephan. 2008. “Tools of Environmental Justice and Meaningful Involvement.” Environmental Practice 10 (4): 152–63. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1466046608080368.

Abel, Troy D., and Jonah White. 2011. “Skewed Riskscapes and Gentrified Inequities: Environmental Exposure Disparities in Seattle, Washington.” American Journal of Public Health 101 (S1): S246–54. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2011.300174.

Abel, Troy D., Debra J. Salazar, and Patricia Robert. 2015. “States of Environmental Justice: Redistributive Politics across the United States, 1993–2004.” Review of Policy Research 32 (2): 200–225. https://doi.org/10.1111/ropr.12119.

Abel, Troy D., and Jonah White. 2015. “Gentrified Sustainability: Inequitable Development and Seattle’s Skewed Riskscape.” Interdisciplinary Environmental Review 16 (2/3/4). https://doi.org/10.1504/IER.2015.071014.

Abel, Troy D., Jonah White, and Stacy Clauson. 2015. “Risky Business: Sustainability and Industrial Land Use across Seattle’s Gentrifying Riskscape.” Sustainability 7 (11): 15718–53. https://doi.org/10.3390/su71115718.

Abel, Troy D., and Mark Stephan. 2018. “Streams of Toxic and Hazardous Waste Disparities, Politics, and Policy.” In Routledge Handbook of Environmental Justice, edited by Ryan Holifield, Jayajit Chakraborty, and Gordon Walker, 311–26. New York, N.Y.: Taylor and Francis.

Abel, Troy D., Stacy Clauson, and Debra J. Salazar. 2018. “Skewed Sustainability and Environmental Injustice Across Metropolitan St. Louis.” In Case Studies in Suburban Sustainability, edited by Robert Brinkman and Sandra Garren. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press.

White, Jonah, and Troy D. Abel. 2018. “A Dividing City: Environmental Exposure Disparities and Gentrified Inequities in Seattle, Washington.” In Routledge Handbook of Global Urban Health. Hoboken, NJ: Taylor & Francis.


Taconite, coke and limestone

Fed my children and made my pay

Then smokestacks reachin' like the arms of god

Into a beautiful sky of soot and clay

--Youngstown, Bruce Springsteen

Seattle waterfront