11 Must-Read Books on Environmental Justice

A stack of books about environmental justice.
  • Aug 6, 2020

Looking to learn more about environmental justice? Our blog post Why Environmental Justice Is So Important is a great place to start for an overview. Once you’re ready to dive in deeper, check out these 11 must-read books on environmental justice: 

1. A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind by Harriet A. Washington examines the connections between environmental racism and intelligence, linking environmental hazards such as toxic waste, air pollution, and even lead paint with cognitive damage—and offering solutions to this devastating problem.

2. As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock by Dina Gilio-Whitaker details the long history of resistance and activism by Indigenous peoples to protect their land and their health from environmental injustices—and what modern environmentalists can learn from them.

3. Garbage Wars: The Struggle for Environmental Justice in Chicago by David Naguib Pellow describes both how and why the waste industry—including dumping, incineration, landfills, recycling, and all of the pollution and hazards that come along with it—disproportionately impacts minority and lower-income communities in Chicago and throughout the U.S. 

4. Living Downstream: A Scientist's Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment is written by Sandra Steingraber—a biologist and a cancer survivor. Steingraber studies the connection between high cancer rates and high concentrations of environmental toxins in her rural Illinois town and other communities across the country—illustrating the inextricable link between the health of our environment and our own health.

5. Poisoned Water: How the Citizens of Flint, Michigan, Fought for Their Lives and Warned the Nation by journalist Candy J. Cooper examines the Flint water crisis, including the conditions and racism that fueled it and the ongoing fight by the people of Flint for clean water and health.

6. Polluted Promises: Environmental Racism and the Search for Justice in a Southern Town by Melissa Checker tells the story of the Hyde Park neighborhood in Augusta, Georgia—a community surrounded by several polluting sites whose citizens fought for environmental justice and struggled to make their voices heard.

7. Standing With Standing Rock: Voices from the #NoDAPL Movement, edited by Nick Estes and Jaskiran Dhillon, is a collection of essays, interviews, poems, photographs, and more from dozens of activists who participated in the Dakota Access Pipeline protests on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. 

8. The Rise of the American Conservation Movement: Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection by Dorceta Taylor details the early stages of the U.S. conservation movement and the often overlooked role that women, people of color, and the working class played in it. Taylor is a prominent environmental sociologist known for her work on environmental justice and racism.

9. The Wrong Complexion for Protection: How the Government Response to Disaster Endangers African American Communities is written by Dr. Robert Bullard, who is widely known as “the father of environmental justice,” and environmental justice scholar Dr. Beverly Wright. Bullard and Wright detail how disparities in government response and assistance following natural disasters have historically negatively impacted communities of color.

10. There's Something in the Water: Environmental Racism in Indigenous & Black Communities by Ingrid Waldron sheds light on issues of environmental injustice and racism in Nova Scotia, as well as these communities’ long history of resistance against these injustices. This book is also the basis of the Netflix documentary of the same name!

11. Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility is another must-read by Dorceta Taylor. This book highlights the environmental injustices faced by lower-income communities of color in the U.S. who live near hazardous facilities and examines the many causes behind this, such as residential segregation and zoning laws.

These books (and so many others) provide an important look into the environmental injustices that unfortunately exist in the U.S. and around the world. 

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