62:3 McGill LJ 861
Environmental Justice; Green Economy
The environmental justice movement validates the grassroots struggles of residents of places which Steve Lerner refers to as “sacrifice zones”: low-income and racialized communities shouldering more than their fair share of environmental harms related to pollution, contamination, toxic waste, and heavy industry. On this account, disparities in wealth and power, often inscribed and re-inscribed through social processes of racialization, are understood to produce disparities in environmental burdens. Here, we attempt to understand how these dynamics are shifting in the green energy economy under settler colonial capitalism. We consider the possibility that the political economy of green energy contains its own sacrifice zones. Drawing on preliminary empirical research undertaken in southwestern Ontario in 2015, we document local resistance to renewable energy projects. Residents mounted campaigns against wind turbines based on suspected health effects and against solar farms based on arable land and food justice concerns, and in both cases, grounded their resistance in a generalized claim, which might be termed a “right to landscape”. We conclude that this resistance, contrary to typical framings which dismiss it as NIMBYism, has resonances with broader claims about environmental justice and may signal larger structural shifts worth devoting scholarly attention to. In the end, however, we do not wholly accept the sacrifice zone characterization of this resistance either, as our analysis reveals it to be far more complex and ambiguous than such a framing allows. But we maintain that taking this resistance seriously, rather than treating it as merely obstructionist to a transition away from fossil capitalism, reveals a counter-hegemonic potential at its core. There are seeds in this resistance with the power to push back on the deepening of capitalist relations that would otherwise be ushered in by an uncritical embrace of “green energy” enthusiasm.
Scott, Dayna and Smith, Adrian A., "“Sacrifice Zones” in the Green Energy Economy: Toward an Environmental Justice Framework" (2017). Articles & Book Chapters. 2691.