Transforming Local Policies to Achieve Environmental Justice

Credit: Terry Evans

Across the country, low income communities and communities of color experience disproportionate burdens from environmental hazards, unhealthy land uses, historical traumas, and other sociodemographic stressors. However, community advocates and their allies are fighting back by transforming zoning and local land-use policies—historically tools for segregation and concentrating pollution in low-income communities and communities of color—into a means for addressing these cumulative burdens.

Credit: Ironbound Community Corporation

By examining the roots of segregating land uses and recent successes of community-driven efforts in over 20 cities, Local Policies for Environmental Justice: A National Scan is a resource for advocates and policymakers interested in newly embarking on such efforts. It is also a means for connecting seasoned advocates looking to compare, learn from, and build on their peers’ experiences. Lastly, it is a testament to the vision, dedication, tenacity and smart strategy of community-led efforts to create a healthier and more equitable urban landscape.

NRDC commissioned the report, authored by environmental justice and land use expert Ana Baptista of the New School, in response to requests from our Chicago community partners the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Southeast Environmental Task Force and Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke for advocacy tools to aid their local reform efforts. It is our hope that the report will serve not only these direct partners, but also environmental justice communities across the country.

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