CSTPR Noontime Seminar
From the inside out: The fight for environmental justice within government agencies
by Jill Harrison, Department of Sociology, University of Colorado Boulder
This talk will be available via live webcast. To view the live webcast please go to Adobe Connect and login as a guest.
In this talk, I present key findings from my current book project, From the Inside Out: The Fight for Environmental Justice within Government Agencies (forthcoming MIT Press, fall 2019). In this book, I lift the veil on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other environmental regulatory agencies to offer new insights into why they fail to reduce harmful toxics and other hazards in our nation’s most environmentally overburdened and vulnerable communities. The book examines the disappointing pace of environmental regulatory agencies’ “environmental justice” (EJ) programs and policies as a case through which to understand why, despite reducing air and water pollution for the nation overall, government has not protected the communities who suffer the most. Other scholars have shown that budget cuts, industry pressure, weak policy, and other factors outside the control of agency staff constrain the possibilities for EJ reforms to regulatory practice. This book shows that agencies’ EJ efforts are also undermined by elements of regulatory workplace culture. Through extensive interviews with and observations of staff at numerous environmental regulatory agencies across the United States, I show that agencies’ EJ efforts are undermined by ways in which staff define the goals and priorities of the organizations they work for and to which they feel very committed.
Bio: Jill Lindsey Harrison is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her research focuses on environmental sociology, sociology of agriculture and food systems, environmental justice, political theories of justice, and immigration politics. She has used her research on political conflict over agricultural pesticide poisonings in California, recent escalations in immigration enforcement in rural Wisconsin, and government agencies’ environmental justice efforts to identify and explain the persistence of environmental inequalities and workplace inequalities in the United States today. She is especially interested in how people are able to make highly inequitable outcomes seem reasonable.