GEOG 430
Human Use of the Environment

Morrone & Buckley "Mountains of Injustice"


Michele Morrone and Geoffrey Buckley. (2011). Introduction: Environmental Justice and Appalachia. Mountains of Injustice. Columbus, OH: Ohio University Press. Pp. xi-xix.

Your second reading is the introduction to a book by Michele Morrone and Geoffrey Buckley called Mountains of Injustice. Research on environmental justice reveals that urban neighborhoods where people of color and low-income residents live are often the preferred sites for landfills, power plants, and polluting factories. Those who live in these "sacrifice zones" are forced to shoulder the burden of harmful environmental effects so that others can prosper. Mountains of Injustice broadens the discussion from the city to the country by focusing on the legacy of disproportionate environmental health impacts on communities in the Appalachian region, where the costs of cheap energy and cheap goods are actually quite high.

Pay close attention to how the authors define environmental justice and environmental racism. From the epigraph that begins the chapter, the authors highlight how important the concept of environmental racism is to understanding what's happening in the white communities of rural Appalachia (that quote is from Robert Bullard, who is known as the father of the environmental justice movement in this country). Clearly, a simplistic understanding of racism is not sufficient here, because being white has not protected these communities from, in Bullard's words, "being dumped on" (Morrone and Buckley 2011: xi).

These authors are arguing that race and class are intersecting forms of inequality. Environmental justice and economic justice are deeply connected to one another. Both the poor black residents of the South Bronx and the poor white communities are "environmental justice communities." In order to fix environmental injustice, we must fully appreciate the value of these places and the people who live in them, and recognize the routine violence experienced by communities that have less political power.

A few questions to consider as you read and reflect:

  • How does this study of environmental injustice in white Appalachian communities align itself with Majora Carter's analysis of environmental injustice in the South Bronx? What common problems and causes do they identify?
  • How do the issues raised in this chapter relate to Central Pennsylvania?
  • What different competing interests can you identify that have a stake in natural resource extraction in the Appalachian region?