From the Inside Out
The Fight for Environmental Justice within Government Agencies
- Honorable Mention for the Allan Schnaiberg Outstanding Publication Award
An examination of why government agencies allow environmental injustices to persist.
Many state and federal environmental agencies have put in place programs, policies, and practices to redress environmental injustices, and yet these efforts fall short of meeting the principles that environmental justice activists have fought for. In From the Inside Out, Jill Lindsey Harrison offers an account of the bureaucratic culture that hinders regulatory agencies' attempts to reduce environmental injustices.
It is now widely accepted that America's poorest communities, communities of color, and Native American communities suffer disproportionate harm from environmental hazards, with higher exposure to pollution and higher incidence of lead poisoning, cancer, asthma, and other diseases linked to environmental ills. And yet, Harrison reports, some regulatory staff view these problems as beyond their agencies' area of concern, requiring too many resources, or see neutrality as demanding “color-blind” administration. Drawing on more than 160 interviews (with interviewees including 89 current or former agency staff members and more than 50 environmental justice activists and others who interact with regulatory agencies) and more than 50 hours of participant observation of agency meetings (both open- and closed-door), Harrison offers a unique account of how bureaucrats resist, undermine, and disparage environmental justice reform—and how environmental justice reformers within the agencies fight back by trying to change regulatory practice and culture from the inside out. Harrison argues that equity, not just aggregated overall improvement, should be a metric for evaluating environmental regulation.
This book stands out as a stunning accomplishment of data-rich, theoretically grounded, and policy-relevant social science scholarship. The author turns our attention to phenomena that have long been undertheorized in the field of environmental justice studies: the roles of government inaction, organizational inertia, and institutional racism within the very agency that is supposed to uphold the values of environmental justice. This is simply one of the most important books on this topic I have read in a very long time.
David Naguib Pellow, Dehlsen Professor of Environmental Studies, UC Santa Barbara, author of What is Critical Environmental Justice?
From the Inside Out will redefine environmental justice scholarship. In this book Harrison tackles the crucial yet overlooked inner workings of the state, illuminating why it is impossible to achieve justice without understanding the role of environmental agencies and bureaucrats.
Laura Pulido, Professor, Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies and Geography, University of Oregon
Why do ostensibly environmentally progressive state reforms so often undermine social justice on the ground? From the Inside Out is a rigorous academic analysis, an uncompromising call for environmental justice, and a roadmap forward for agency staff and community environmental justice practitioners alike.
Kari Marie Norgaard, author of Salmon and Acorns Feed Our People: Colonialism, Nature and Social Action
“From the Inside Out offers a rigorously researched and powerful narrative of bureaucratic cultural obstacles to [environmental justice] reforms, with implications that go well beyond the state and federal environmental protection agencies that are the focus of study.”
Erik W. Johnson, Washington State University
American Journal of Sociology