A robust vision for environmental justice includes social justice, environmental sustainability, and fair political processes.
We contend that achieving these goals requires identifying how science and technology tend to reinforce structural
inequities—and identifying opportunities for them to help dismantle structures of injustice. Our work envisions ways of approaching science and technology that promote environmental justice.
Addressing "unintended consequences"
- No one is held accountable for the harmful side effects of new technology
- Already-disadvantaged groups are often harmed most
- Treat innovations as experiments
- Proactively track all of their effects
- Involve disadvantaged groups in designing and conducting the experiment as well as in assessing the results
"Instead of barreling forward into a technological landscape where benefits to some groups are achieved at the cost of harms to others, we could lay, brick by brick, a technological foundation for raising everyone up."
—Gwen Ottinger, Founder, Fair Tech Collective
Strengthening informed consent
- Citizens and governments grant or deny permits to build polluting facilities
- They can’t know the full extent of a facility’s impacts before it is built
- Once it is operating, they have little opportunity to change their minds
- Research on facilities’ effects should be on-going
- Citizens should have periodic opportunities to renew or withdraw their consent as new information becomes available
"Existing policies...effectively allow companies to externalize...risks—it is currently neighboring communities who pay, in the form of ill health and increased health care bills, for
Designing for environmental justice
- Technological design criteria rarely incorporate environmental justice considerations
- Common design criteria, such as economies of scale, make environmental justice harder to achieve
- Engineers should design with environmental justice goals—equitable distribution, enforcement, and participation—in mind
- Information technologists should ensure their systems support collective action, not just individual decision-making
"Environmental justice advocates are well placed to begin meeting proposals for new technology not by asking, ‘is it efficient?' or even, 'is it green?' but rather, 'is it just?’”