GEOG 430
Human Use of the Environment

Lesson 4 Reading


Pulido, L. (2000). Rethinking Environmental Racism: White Privilege and Urban Development in Southern California. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 90:12–40.

In her piece "Rethinking Environmental Racism: White Privilege and Urban Development in Southern California", Pulido argues that existing literature holds a “narrow understanding” of racism. She points out three specific issues that contribute to the narrow conception of racism which are: an emphasis on individual facility, role of intentionality, and an uncritical approach to scale. In the beginning of the paper, Pulido presents the question, “How did whites distance themselves from pollution and nonwhites?”, which can help to answer why nonwhites are the populations exposed to more environmental “bads” than they are “goods”. Clean air and access to parks are two examples of environmental goods and polluted air and close proximity to toxic pollutants are two examples of environmental bads. Pulido criticizes Baden and Coursey’s (1997) Six Sequential Scenarios and Conclusions. She claims that their reasoning behind stating that only two of these scenarios can be the only mechanisms to measure environmental racism is creating a mindset that in order for an action to be considered environmentally racist it must be doing so intentionally, and as we can see that is not the case all the time. Pulido's groundbreaking contribution to geography (and environmental justice studies) in this article is that she combines the mapping of racial demographics and siting of toxic facilities with spatial renderings of suburbanization and white flight to produce a more complex understanding of environmental racism as an ongoing process. Specifically, she explores different ways of understanding environmental racism, and emphasizes "white privilege" as a particularly influential form of racism that has shaped urban and suburban development in the United States.

NOTE: A link to the reading is located in the Lesson 4 module in Canvas.