Editing this issue of Race, Poverty & the Environment with the analytical framework of imperialism has been a fascinating task. To do the theme justice, we decided to gather a set of introductory articles that define and frame imperialism as a challenge to environmental justice.
In this introductory section, U.C. Berkeley Professor R.A. Walker defines imperialism first as a “geographic term: the power of one place over another.” An author of several articles about Bay Area development, Walker describes how elite “command over space and place” has characterized urban development throughout the United States, and particularly in San Francisco and the East Bay. Tom B. K. Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network provides readers with an historical overview of colonialism’s impact on Indigenous populations and explains how exploitation of Indigenous land and resources continues today. To close this section, a Q&A with Eric Mann, director of the Labor/Community Strategy Center in Los Angeles, articulates why anti-imperialism has long been a part of the Center’s mission and what organizers can do now to further the global justice movement.
The middle “Impacts, Local and Global” section examines the scope of the problem the environmental justice community faces. It’s divided into subsections: “Environment and Economy,” which delves into issues ranging from economic development policy to global trade rules that harm the poor and threaten our environments; “Food and Agriculture,” with articles about genetic engineering, food dumping and biopiracy; “Water Services,” which reports on water privatization’s impact on poor communities in the United States and in South Africa; and “Health, Labor, Human Rights” with pieces about dwindling health care and labor protections. This section includes a revealing report from labor journalist and photographer David Bacon about developments in Iraq.
In the final section, a variety of articles depict global justice organizing efforts and alternative models. Highlights include dispatches from participants in the most recent World Social Forum in Mumbai, India; a report on Latin American and Caribbean resistance to the Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement, plus alternative agreements; and a proposal for how global trade can promote gender equity. Though this section could not possibly cover all of the alternatives being proposed worldwide by global justice advocates, it offers refreshing ideas about sustainable energy, agriculture, trade and development. As always, the issue ends with a listing of organizations, Web sites and books to consult for further information.
The bottom line for all of these articles is that they include an analysis of how the issues affect the poor and people of color across the globe. Many of the organizing and coalition-building strategies described herein are lead by people of color who are often among the first and most affected by inequitable local and global policies.
Volume 11, 2004