The Challenges of Environmental Injustice for the Sustainable City: Empirical Observations and Sociopolitical Issues

Environmental and Ecological Inequalities: Appropriate Responses in Territories and Services
By Guillaume Faburel

By their negative externalities (noise and air pollution, landscape changes...), transport systems and infrastructure contribute to environmental degradation and inequalities in cities. Some international research, as well as recent work in France, shows clearly that poor populations are statistically more likely to be residing in the vicinity of large infrastructures.
Beyond the descriptive elements, this contribution of transport to the social geography and the urban environment suggests important questions for territorial management and policies, as recently indicated by various planning slogans and viewpoints within the purview of sustainable development. Whether it is in terms of collective responsibility in location choices, of the use of assessment and metrological knowledge for environmental protection, or concerning mobilizations and local disputes around large projects, this role highlights less different disparities in situations than varying inequalities with regard to the avoidance or treatment of environmental consequences, and thus a set of injustices in individual and collective capacities.
In this way, reflection involves the axiological and instrumental framework of policy, and, within this, the joint conceptions of the environment and justice, and the place of participation in the design of so-called sustainable planning. Much empirical work in France and elsewhere converges to question such choices and thus to propose other perspectives in the consideration of environmental injustice for urban futures.

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