Steve Lerner

Steve Lerner is the author of Eco-Pioneers: Practical Visionaries Solving Today's Environmental Problems (1998) and Diamond: A Struggle for Environmental Justice in Louisiana's Chemical Corridor (2006), both published by the MIT Press.

  • Sacrifice Zones

    Sacrifice Zones

    The Front Lines of Toxic Chemical Exposure in the United States

    Steve Lerner

    The stories of residents of low-income communities across the country who took action when pollution from heavy industry contaminated their towns.

    Across the United States, thousands of people, most of them in low-income or minority communities, live next to heavily polluting industrial sites. Many of them reach a point at which they say “Enough is enough.” After living for years with poisoned air and water, contaminated soil, and pollution-related health problems, they start to take action—organizing, speaking up, documenting the effects of pollution on their neighborhoods.

    In Sacrifice Zones, Steve Lerner tells the stories of twelve communities, from Brooklyn to Pensacola, that rose up to fight the industries and military bases causing disproportionately high levels of chemical pollution. He calls these low-income neighborhoods “sacrifice zones.” And he argues that residents of these sacrifice zones, tainted with chemical pollutants, need additional regulatory protections.

    Sacrifice Zones goes beyond the disheartening statistics and gives us the voices of the residents themselves, offering compelling portraits of accidental activists who have become grassroots leaders in the struggle for environmental justice and details the successful tactics they have used on the fenceline with heavy industry.

    • Hardcover $29.95
    • Paperback $24.95
  • Diamond

    Diamond

    A Struggle for Environmental Justice in Louisiana's Chemical Corridor

    Steve Lerner

    The story of how a mixed-income minority community in Louisiana's Chemical Corridor fought Shell Oil and won.

    For years, the residents of Diamond, Louisiana, lived with an inescapable acrid, metallic smell—the "toxic bouquet" of pollution—and a mysterious chemical fog that seeped into their houses. They looked out on the massive Norco Industrial Complex: a maze of pipelines, stacks topped by flares burning off excess gas, and huge oil tankers moving up the Mississippi. They experienced headaches, stinging eyes, allergies, asthma, and other respiratory problems, skin disorders, and cancers that they were convinced were caused by their proximity to heavy industry. Periodic industrial explosions damaged their houses and killed some of their neighbors. Their small, African-American, mixed-income neighborhood was sandwiched between two giant Shell Oil plants in Louisiana's notorious Chemical Corridor. When the residents of Diamond demanded that Shell relocate them, their chances of success seemed slim: a community with little political clout was taking on the second-largest oil company in the world. And yet, after effective grassroots organizing, unremitting fenceline protests, seemingly endless negotiations with Shell officials, and intense media coverage, the people of Diamond finally got what they wanted: money from Shell to help them relocate out of harm's way. In this book, Steve Lerner tells their story.

    Around the United States, struggles for environmental justice such as the one in Diamond are the new front lines of both the civil rights and the environmental movements, and Diamond is in many ways a classic environmental-justice story: a minority neighborhood, faced with a polluting industry in its midst, fights back. But Diamond is also the history of a black community that goes back to the days of slavery. In 1811, Diamond (then the Trepagnier Plantation) was the center of the largest slave rebellion in United States history. Descendants of these slaves were among the participants in the modern-day Diamond relocation campaign.

    Steve Lerner talks to the people of Diamond, and lets them tell their story in their own words. He talks also to the residents of a nearby white neighborhood—many of whom work for Shell and have fewer complaints about the plants—and to environmental activists and Shell officials. His account of Diamond's 30-year ordeal puts a human face on the struggle for environmental justice in the United States.

    • Hardcover $29.95
    • Paperback $23.95
  • Eco-Pioneers

    Eco-Pioneers

    Practical Visionaries Solving Today's Environmental Problems

    Steve Lerner

    The idea for Eco-Pioneers came to Steve Lerner while he was attending the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Although he was moved by the vision of sustainable development evoked by citizens and officials at the summit, as a reporter he felt a need to put a human face on the rhetoric and find out what sustainable development actually looks like in the United States. He spent the next four years searching out what he came to call "eco-pioneers"—the modern pathfinders who are working in the American pragmatic tradition to reduce the pace of environmental degradation. These practical visionaries are people who are willing to push the limits of whatever tools they can find for dealing with ecological problems. Lerner provides case studies of eco-pioneers who are exploring sustainable ways to log forests, grow food, save plant species, run cattle, build houses, clean up cities, redesign rural communities, generate power, conserve water, protect rivers and wildlife, treat hazardous waste, reuse materials, and reduce both waste and consumption. Some of those profiled run businesses, some address environmental practices within their immediate community, and some combine their environmental concerns with social goals such as the creation of inner-city jobs. Together they are creating ways of living and working that many analysts believe to be essential to an ecologically sustainable future.

    • Hardcover $67.50
    • Paperback $37.00

Contributor

  • Breakthrough Communities

    Breakthrough Communities

    Sustainability and Justice in the Next American Metropolis

    M. Paloma Pavel

    Activists, analysts, and practitioners describe innovative strategies that promote healthy neighborhoods, fair housing, and accessible transportation throughout America's cities and suburbs.

    The emerging metropolitan regional-equity movement promotes innovative policies to ensure that all communities in a metropolitan region share resources and opportunities equally. Too often, low-income communities and communities of color bear a disproportionate burden of pollution and lack access to basic infrastructure and job opportunities. The metropolitan regional-equity movement—sometimes referred to as a new civil rights movement—works for solutions to these problems that take into account entire metropolitan regions: the inner-city core, the suburbs, and exurban areas. This book describes current efforts to create sustainable communities with attention to the “triple bottom line”—economy, environment, and equity—and argues that these three interests are mutually reinforcing.

    After placing the movement in its historical, racial, and class context, Breakthrough Communities offers case studies in which activists' accounts alternate with policy analyses. These describe efforts in Detroit, New York City, San Francisco, Atlanta, Camden, Chicago, Los Angeles, and other metropolitan areas to address such problems as vacant property, brownfields, affordable housing, accessible transportation, community food security, and the aftermath of Katrina and September 11. The volume concludes by considering future directions for the movement, including global linkages devoted to such issues as climate change.

    Contributors Carl Anthony, Angela Glover Blackwell, Robert D. Bullard, Sheryll Cashin, Kizzy Charles-Guzmán, Don Chen, Celine d'Cruz, Amy B, Dean, Hattie Dorsey, Cynthia M. Duncan, Juliet Ellis, Danny Feingold, Deeohn Ferris, Kenneth Galdston, Greg Galluzzo, Howard Gillette Jr., David Goldberg, Robert Gottlieb, Bart Harvey, William A. Johnson Jr., Chris Jones, Van Jones, Anupama Joshi, Bruce Katz, Victoria Kovari, Mike Kruglik, Steve Lerner, Greg Leroy, Amy Liu, Stephen McCullough, Mary Nelson, Jeremy Nowak, Myron Orfield, Manuel Pastor, M. Paloma Pavel, john a. powell, Cheryl Rivera, Faith R. Rivers, Nicolas Ronderos, Rachel Rosner, David Rusk, Priscilla Salant, David Satterthwaite, Ellen Schneider, Peggy M. Shepard, L. Benjamin Starrett, Jennie Stephens, Elizabeth Tan, Petra Todorovich, Andrea Torrice, Mark Vallianatos, Robert Yaro

    • Hardcover $54.00
    • Paperback $34.00