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18 Asian Am. L.J. 5 (2011)
Asian American Immigrant and Refugee Environmental Justice Activisim under Neoliberal Urbanism

handle is hein.journals/aslj18 and id is 7 raw text is: Asian American Immigrant and Refugee
Environmental Justice Activism Under
Neoliberal Urbanism
Julie Szet
Environmental justice,' as an academic field, has ignored the
conceptual contributions of Asian immigrant and Asian American activists
of color, partly because of a focus on distributive justice instead of
procedural justice. The goal of procedural justice is to secure self-
representation for disenfranchised community members in crucial
environmental decision-making processes that impact the communities
where they live, work, play, and learn.3 In contrast, distributive justice
focuses on securing policy and legal remedies for distributive inequities
such as the unequal effects of toxic pollution from oil refineries and lead
poisoning in sub-standard housing on low-income communities of color.4 A
focus on distributive justice tends to concentrate on the outcomes of
t   Julie Sze is an Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of California, Davis
(UC Davis). She is also the founding director of the Environmental Justice Project for UC Davis's
John Muir Institute for the Environment. Thanks to Winnie Tam Hung and Thantham Bui for research
assistance, and Nakeeb Siddique for his analysis of the legal implications of the case involving the
Chinese Staff and Workers Association.
1. Environmental justice activists believe that environmental protection should be fair, and
that environmental regulation should not sacrifice the interests of people of color and low-income
communities in the quest for maximizing net environmental benefits. Eileen Guana, The
Environmental Justice Misfit: Public Participation and the Paradigm Paradox, 17 STAN. ENVTL. L.J. 3,
9, 15 (1998).
2. See Richard Lazarus, Pursuing Environmental Justice: The Distributional Effects of
Environmental Protection, 87 Nw. U. L. REV. 787, 788 (1983) (examining distributional implications of
environmental protection laws and ways in which racial minorities receive fewer benefits and more
burdens associated with these laws).
AND THE RISE OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE MOVEMENT 33 (2001). For an example of procedural
justice, consider how activists Young Shin of Asian Immigrant Workers Advocates and UC Berkeley's
Pam Tau Lee presented seminal papers at the 1991 First People of Color Leadership Summit. Together
they ensured that occupational issues were a key part of the Principles of Environmental Justice
drafted at the summit.
4. See Julie Sze & Jonathan K. London, Environmental Justice at the Crossroads, 10 Soc.
COMPASS 1331, 1335-36 (2008).


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