From the Ground Up by Luke Cole and Sheila Foster

From the Ground UPFrom the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of the Environmental Justice Movement

This non-fiction book is, remarkably, still the closest thing to an interdisciplinary textbook on US environmental justice I’ve found to teach with. WAIT– don’t stop reading this yet—it’s not really a textbook at all. I’m just complaining there’s no good textbook type source on EJ and that’s a hole in the literature both higher ed and k-12 ed. Teaching a course on environmental justice, my students and I read several of the chapters in this book, and it caused me to read the relatively short book in its entirety.

Luke Cole and Sheila Foster, as attorneys, chart the legal and grassroots history of one of the fastest growing and dynamic social movements across the globe: environmental justice. You can access the 17 principles of environmental justice originally outlined and agreed to by the participants in the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in 1991: http://www.ejnet.org/ej/principles.html.

I like that the authors of this book attend to the “different currents” of folk who came together to constitute environmental justice movements, and discuss both the political economy of environmental racism as well as the personal stories of growth and resistance from particular organizers in the movement. At 14 years old, I wouldn’t call this the most up-to-date work, but it is a good introduction to environmental racism and environmental justice. It’s engaging, shifts between local and national scales, and covers a lot of ground.

Environmental justice is one of the most vibrant and important social movements of the 20th and 21st century, and has grown in tandem with other important movements like civil rights, anti-toxics, feminist, Chicano/Chicana, and anti-development movements over the last 40 years. As the world heats up and grows ever more unequal, environmental justice will continue to be a vital strand of thought and organizing principle for people across the globe.

Availability: USMAI, SMCM
Review Submitted by: Shane D. Hall
Rating: Must Read

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