University of California Press, 2022
(Order online at UC Press and save 30%, use sourcecode 21W2240 at checkout)
Despite living and working in California, one of the county’s most environmentally progressive states, environmental justice activists have spent decades fighting for clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and safe, healthy communities. Evolution of a Movement tells their story—from the often-raucous protests of the 1980s and 1990s to activists’ growing presence inside the halls of the state capitol in the 2000s and 2010s. Tracy E. Perkins traces how shifting political contexts combined with activists’ own efforts to institutionalize their work within nonprofits and state structures. By revealing these struggles and transformations, Perkins offers a new lens for understanding environmental justice activism in California.
Drawing on case studies and 125 interviews with activists from Sacramento to the California-Mexico border, Perkins explores the successes and failures of the environmental justice movement in California. She shows why some activists have moved away from the disruptive “outsider” political tactics common in the movement’s early days and embraced traditional political channels of policy advocacy, electoral politics, and working from within the state’s political system to enact change. Although some see these changes as a sign of the growing sophistication of the environmental justice movement, others point to the potential of such changes to blunt grassroots power. At a time when environmental justice scholars and activists face pressing questions about the best route for effecting meaningful change, this book provides insight into the strengths and limitations of social movement institutionalization.
“How can social movements most effectively make lasting change—through reform or revolution? This impressive study offers an innovative and deeply engaging exploration of how this foundational question played out over several decades within California’s environmental justice movement. This is truly original scholarship that challenges long-held assumptions about one of the most significant grassroots political formations of our time.”—David N. Pellow, author of What Is Critical Environmental Justice? and Dehlsen Professor of Environmental Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara
“Tracy Perkins not only reframes the history of the environmental justice movement, but explores how and why activists have pursued particular strategies in relation to the state. Focusing on environmental justice in California, Evolution of a Movement addresses one of the most pressing environmental justice issues today—that of political strategy. An invaluable contribution to the literature on environmental justice.”—Laura Pulido, Collins Chair and Professor of Indigenous Studies, Race, and Ethnic Studies, University of Oregon
“This theoretically informed, empirically rich, and timely account provides new insights into the fight for justice in California’s environmental politics. The book both underscores the urgency of environmental justice and raises important and difficult questions about the social-movement strategies that will most effectively achieve change.”—Jill Lindsey Harrison, author of From the Inside Out: The Fight for Environmental Justice within Government Agencies
“What is the best way to achieve meaningful environmental justice? Tracy Perkins wrangles the oft-cited case studies of environmental justice organizing in California and deftly synthesizes them in an analysis of their evolving movement strategies, ranging from organizing landfill blockades to serving in elected office. In so doing, she moves beyond the binary of outsider versus insider tactics to interrogate how and why such tactics are used and when they exist in uneasy but sometimes useful alliances. This book is an important read for anyone interested in social movement history, models of effective resistance, and the many lessons for our current and future environmental and climate justice movements.”—Danielle Purifoy, Professor of Geography, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Board Chair of the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network
“This book is an important addition to the environmental justice canon. The community scholarship sets this work apart and lifts up the efforts of the hardworking people who struggled to create the environmental justice movement in California, thus inspiring others around the United States and the world.”—Leslie G. Fields, Esq., National Director, Policy Advocacy and Legal, Sierra Club, Washington, DC