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Open Access (free)
Environmental justice and citizen science in a post-truth age
Editors: Thom Davies and Alice Mah

This book examines the relationship between environmental justice and citizen science, focusing on enduring issues and new challenges in a post-truth age. Debates over science, facts, and values have always been pivotal within environmental justice struggles. For decades, environmental justice activists have campaigned against the misuses of science, while at the same time engaging in community-led citizen science. However, post-truth politics has threatened science itself. This book makes the case for the importance of science, knowledge, and data that are produced by and for ordinary people living with environmental risks and hazards. The international, interdisciplinary contributions range from grassroots environmental justice struggles in American hog country and contaminated indigenous communities, to local environmental controversies in Spain and China, to questions about “knowledge justice,” citizenship, participation, and data in citizen science surrounding toxicity. The book features inspiring studies of community-based participatory environmental health and justice research; different ways of sensing, witnessing, and interpreting environmental injustice; political strategies for seeking environmental justice; and ways of expanding the concepts and forms of engagement of citizen science around the world. While the book will be of critical interest to specialists in social and environmental sciences, it will also be accessible to graduate and postgraduate audiences. More broadly, the book will appeal to members of the public interested in social justice issues, as well as community members who are thinking about participating in citizen science and activism. Toxic Truths includes distinguished contributing authors in the field of environmental justice, alongside cutting-edge research from emerging scholars and community activists.

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

the production of knowledge, and the place of science within society, is thus well timed to respond to these debates. Toxic Truths examines the role of science, politics, and values in the global struggle against environmental injustice, from e-­waste extraction in urban Ghana to “strongly participatory” citizen science in southern France; from toxic tours in Ecuador to “soft confrontation” in China. By using the phrase “toxic truths” we highlight the heterogeneity of perspectives about pollution, which are rarely fixed, certain, or uncontested. Yet we also

in Toxic truths
Open Access (free)
Thom Davies

environmental justice, if injustice is built on a bedrock of political inequality? These are some of the questions explored by the authors in the final section of Toxic Truths. Citizen science refers to research that is performed by, and in the interests of, citizens. In the context of environmental justice, citizen science means adopting technoscientific practices by the public themselves to measure, assess, and sometimes protest their concerns about the environment. Though citizen science may sometimes ape formal ­science – ­ventriloquizing its symbolic ­capital – ­it also

in Toxic truths
Open Access (free)
Thom Davies

environmental damage can be found in fenceline stories of mysterious sickness and lost relatives, with the graveyard becoming a reluctant archive of contested and occluded exposure. And herein lies the problem: How can individuals, when faced with the peculiar opacity of pollution, bear witness to its impacts? Which senses do we rely upon when we are confronted by toxic hazards? Moreover, which perspectives and epistemologies are silenced in environmental justice struggles, and how might we broaden our framework of creating toxic truths? These questions are put into sharp

in Toxic truths
Open Access (free)
Alice Mah

success stories of participatory citizen science while highlighting the need for enduring struggles. However, citizen-­led environmental justice victories, where corporations or state actors are held legally responsible for costs of compensation, clean-­up, or relocation, typically only occur in extreme cases of negligence (Bullard and Wright 2009). Following the uneven geography of toxic hazards, the environmental justice “wins” also correspond to “losses” in other places, as toxic hazards move to communities with weaker political voices. Part III of Toxic Truths

in Toxic truths
Open Access (free)
Alice Mah

experience, this chapter offers reflections on historical legacies, lessons learned, and future challenges for CBPR in relation to entrenched corporate interests and environmental injustices in North Carolina. This first part of Toxic Truths demonstrates the extraordinary potential of CBPR for environmental justice advocacy, from the public discovery of emerging contaminants, to the policy impacts of “strongly participatory” environmental health research in a contested French industrial region, to the enduring struggles over environmental justice near concentrated toxic

in Toxic truths
Environmental enumeration, justice, and apprehension
Nicholas Shapiro, Nasser Zakariya, and Jody A. Roberts

This chapter resituates discussions of community-based science beyond the emancipatory rhetoric of democratization, creative commons, and the blurring of the bulwarks of expertise to include consideration of the potentially constrictive instrumentalist scientific idiom produced by and through these practices. This chapter asks: what are the approaches to apprehending the environment that might not so easily boil down to binaries of benevolence or harm, or to renderings of uncertainty confined to the specifications of statistical confidence intervals, that in turn justify further scientific inquiry? We gesture toward an expansive conversation that we call “inviting apprehension.” Such approaches beckon multiple strata of apprehending the environment to provoke public inquiry and intervention into the questions that undergird what we assume are the problems of today and the avenues through which we must engage them.

in Toxic truths
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
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
Open Access (free)
Strategic actions of an environmental organization in China
Xinhong Wang and Yuanni Wang

This chapter is a case study of an environmental protection volunteers’ organization based in Hunan Province of China. Analyzing actions taken by the organization, the chapter discusses how “pushback” and negotiation are two major strategies for promoting public interest and solving environmental problems. Aiming to continuously and effectively push local government to rectify environmental problems, the environmental organization uses the media as a platform and pushback as a strategy to attract government attention and form an inter-dependable relationship and a soft confrontation between themselves and the government. During the process of negotiating with the government, they also continue with the strategy of pushback to maintain the upper hand, thus achieving a balance of autonomy and dependency. The chapter concludes that this integrated strategy of pushback and negotiation, in a form “soft confrontation,” has played an effective role in the interactions between the environmental organization and the government.

in Toxic truths