Lessons learned from community-driven participatory research and the “people’s professor”
Sarah Rhodes, KD Brown, Larry Cooper, Naeema Muhammad, and Devon Hall

The global epicenter of industrial hog production is in North Carolina (NC), USA. There, approximately 9 million hogs are raised for meat production in over 2,000 industrial hog operations (IHO) across the state. This area is also situated within the Black Belt, a geopolitical region marred by over 400 years of slavery and ongoing government-sanctioned violence. This chapter elevates the triumphs and lessons gained from actors heavily involved in both the continuing legal action against the hog industry and the NC government, as well as the community-driven participatory research (CDPR) that exposed their underlying environmental injustice and racism. This chapter first explores the history, impact, and political influence of the hog industry. Then, we summarize and celebrate the influential CDPR studies conducted by Professor Steve Wing in collaboration with community-based organizations such as the Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help (REACH) and the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN). Next, we present lessons learned from these CDPR studies for those from all backgrounds working in partnership to envision and build a future where environmental justice is actualized. Finally, this chapter honors Professor Wing as the “people’s professor,” urging academics to consult his work as a guide for transforming their own research practice.

in Toxic truths
From the development of a national surveillance system to the birth of an international network
Roberto Pasetto and Ivano Iavarone

This chapter discusses the birth and evolution of a national epidemiological monitoring system of communities affected by contaminated sites, developed in Italy. First, it describes the process of postwar industrialization and the environmental contamination in Italian industrial areas, reporting an exemplary case study. Then, it explains the characteristics of the epidemiological monitoring program created and improved to respond to requests from local authorities in order to understand whether, and to what extent, the health of their residents was at risk in areas contaminated by the industries. The chapter also discusses the usefulness of the monitoring system in promoting environmental justice, since most of the communities affected by contamination were socioeconomically fragile. Finally, it describes how the experience developed at a national level has helped in promoting an international network of researchers and experts from public health institutions, universities, and environmental agencies on the theme of contaminated sites and health.

in Toxic truths
Open Access (free)
Tackling environmental injustice in a post-truth age
Thom Davies and Alice Mah

This introductory chapter critically introduces the main concepts that run throughout the book: environmental justice, citizen science, and post-truth. It argues for the importance of science, knowledge, and data that are produced by and for ordinary people living with environmental risks and hazards. At the same time, the chapter is also attuned to the fact that data alone will never be enough to halt environmental injustice, especially as toxic pollution is so embedded within global and local structures of inequality. The chapter presents an overview of the book, which is split into four interconnected sections: environmental justice and participatory citizen science; sensing and witnessing injustice; political strategies for seeking environmental justice; and expanding citizen science. The final part of the chapter gives a brief summary of each of the fourteen chapters that appear in Toxic Truths.

in Toxic truths
Open Access (free)
Alice Mah
in Toxic truths
Open Access (free)
Thom Davies
in Toxic truths
Open Access (free)
Alice Mah
in Toxic truths
Open Access (free)
Thom Davies
in Toxic truths
The case of air quality monitoring in a Spanish industrial area
Miguel A. López-Navarro

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.

in Toxic truths
Barbara L. Allen

In the environmental justice arena, citizen science encompasses a broad array of practices, from local residents asking the questions driving scientific inquiry to participating in data collection. This chapter argues that collecting data should not be the end of the participatory process as data does not speak for, or represent, communities without a further step: collaborative analysis. Analyzing data with communities satisfies several objectives, as demonstrated in a case study of two industrial towns in France. First, residents are empowered as collaborators in making meaning from abstract numbers. Grounding statistics in local experience deeply contextualizes the data, making it both socially robust and empirically stronger. Second, through inclusive analysis, residents who may have been unable to adequately conceptualize their experience such that it could be understood by policymakers have a venue to collectively render their lived knowledge intelligible. Finally, the linking of quantitative to qualitative data can increase the relevance and effectiveness of a study to both residents and local medical professionals. In this case, citizens gained confident ownership of the science they helped create and could speak authoritatively about it. This led to local residents and elected officials more assertively using the health study to influence better environmental outcomes.

in Toxic truths
The “Clean City” law in São Paulo, Brazil
Marina Da Silva

This chapter discusses “visual pollution” by using São Paulo’s “Cidade Limpa” (Clean City) law as a case study. The law, enacted in 2007, aims to fight “visual pollution” yet fails to define the term. The project builds on work Da Silva previously conducted in São Paulo’s public space. By identifying different viewpoints and enactments of “visual pollution,” this chapter analyzes how interdisciplinary methodologies and public engagement can connect different types of expertise to explore what is understood as visual pollution, and furthermore its relation to the ownership of public space and urban environment. The methodology used in the research questions epistemologically the power relations existent in the idea of pollution and public well-being raised by the law. Finally, this chapter discusses the relationship between São Paulo’s social structure, environmental justice, and the idea of visual pollution.

in Toxic truths