Legitimating confrontational discourses by local environmental groups
The case of air quality monitoring in a Spanish industrial area
in Toxic truths

Over the past decade, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have gained importance in the political arena. In the business and society discourse, collaboration is now the dominant articulation in NGO–business relationships. However, understanding how NGOs construct their discourses and manage their adversarial relationships, and analyzing under what conditions confrontation can lead to favorable solutions to social and environmental problems are research questions that remain unanswered. This research draws on a case study in a Spanish industrial region to analyze how a local environmental group articulates and legitimizes a confrontational strategy based on a scientific study of air quality instigated by the group and carried out by independent experts. The chapter also examines the environmental advances achieved as a result, and evaluates the responses from the industry and the regional government. The findings confirm that confrontational spaces can lead to advances in solving environmental problems. The study also contributes to the literature by identifying the key factors that favored the environmental group’s legitimacy and the effectiveness of its confrontational strategy. Moreover, this research shows how confrontational strategies do not necessarily exclude dialogue or the possibility of actively participating in multi-stakeholder deliberative processes.

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Toxic truths

Environmental justice and citizen science in a post-truth age

Editors: Thom Davies and Alice Mah

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