Beverly Wright, Earthea Nance, Denae King, and Joy Semien


The paper describes, from a historical and international perspective, the ongoing struggles of several communities in Louisiana and South Africa whose environment and public health have been damaged by the operations of the same transnational corporations. Previous research has tended to assess environmental injustice one community at a time. Missing from past research is an international perspective that exposes the ties between communities that host the same transnational corporations. For each of our case study communities, we illustrate the national and international policy gaps that have allowed powerful companies to systematically target vulnerable communities for profit. Because of the international dimensions of this problem, resolving it by local or national action alone is impractical. We argue that one of our case study communities represented a turning point in the international movement for environmental justice. The community of Mossville, Louisiana formally asked the United Nations for relief from years of environmental assault on the basis that their human rights had been violated. The paper shows how the decision of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which recognized the human rights of Mossville residents, came closer than ever before to realizing environmental human rights for people around the world.

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