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Class Conflict and Environmental Justice
Unformatted Document Text:  CLASS CONFLICT AND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE Kenneth A. GouldDepartment of SociologySt. Lawrence UniversityCanton, New York 13617USAE-mail: ## email not listed ## Phone: 315-229-5395Fax: 315-229-5803 Abstract : The distribution of environmental hazards by social class is a normal outcomefor capitalist economies. Markets left to function on their own will normally distributegoods and services on the basis of wealth. The economic benefits of production aredistributed upward in the stratification system. Conversely, the environmental hazardsgenerated by production are distributed downward. Because owners, managers andinvestors are able to live in relatively clean environments, they are at the lowest risk ofbearing the health and quality of life costs resulting from production processes. Thesesame individuals have the greatest power to change production processes to reduceenvironmental risks. Because of their insulation from the consequences of theirproduction decisions, owners, managers and investors have the least incentive to makepro-environmental changes to production practices. Conversely, workers, who have thegreatest exposure to environmental hazards and therefore have the greatest incentive tochange production practices, have the least power to institute those changes. As a result,those empowered to make pro-environmental change are the least likely to see thenecessity of doing so. Those most likely to see pro-environmental change as necessary areleast empowered to effect those changes. Therefore, adequately addressing environmentalinjustice will require shifting the balance of production decision-making power awayfrom an affluent minority and toward the working-class and the poor. As such efforts toshift the class basis of control of the means of production are likely to meet intenseresistance, environmental injustice will not be eliminated without substantial classconflict. Key words: environmental justice, class conflict, distribution, environmental movements

Authors: Gould, Kenneth.
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CLASS CONFLICT AND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
Kenneth A. Gould
Department of Sociology
St. Lawrence University
Canton, New York 13617
USA
E-mail:
## email not listed ##
Phone: 315-229-5395
Fax: 315-229-5803
Abstract : The distribution of environmental hazards by social class is a normal outcome
for capitalist economies. Markets left to function on their own will normally distribute
goods and services on the basis of wealth. The economic benefits of production are
distributed upward in the stratification system. Conversely, the environmental hazards
generated by production are distributed downward. Because owners, managers and
investors are able to live in relatively clean environments, they are at the lowest risk of
bearing the health and quality of life costs resulting from production processes. These
same individuals have the greatest power to change production processes to reduce
environmental risks. Because of their insulation from the consequences of their
production decisions, owners, managers and investors have the least incentive to make
pro-environmental changes to production practices. Conversely, workers, who have the
greatest exposure to environmental hazards and therefore have the greatest incentive to
change production practices, have the least power to institute those changes. As a result,
those empowered to make pro-environmental change are the least likely to see the
necessity of doing so. Those most likely to see pro-environmental change as necessary are
least empowered to effect those changes. Therefore, adequately addressing environmental
injustice will require shifting the balance of production decision-making power away
from an affluent minority and toward the working-class and the poor. As such efforts to
shift the class basis of control of the means of production are likely to meet intense
resistance, environmental injustice will not be eliminated without substantial class
conflict.
Key words: environmental justice, class conflict, distribution, environmental movements


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