Race, Place, and Environmental Justice After Hurricane Katrina

Struggles to Reclaim, Rebuild, and Revitalize New Orleans and the Gulf Coast


Edited by Robert D. Bullard and Beverly Wright

First Edition • February 1, 2009 • 312 pages


Print ISBN: 9780813344249 • $40.00 USD$56.50 CAN

Ebook ISBN: 9780786744275 • $25.99 USD$28.99 CAN

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On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall near New Orleans leaving death and destruction across the Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama Gulf Coast counties. The lethargic and inept emergency response that followed exposed institutional flaws, poor planning, and false assumptions that are built into the emergency response and homeland security plans and programs. Questions linger: What went wrong? Can it happen again? Is our government equipped to plan for, mitigate, respond to, and recover from natural and manmade disasters? Can the public trust government response to be fair? Does race matter?

Racial disparities exist in disaster response, cleanup, rebuilding, reconstruction, and recovery. Race plays out in natural disaster survivors’ ability to rebuild, replace infrastructure, obtain loans, and locate temporary and permanent housing. Generally, low-income and people of color disaster victims spend more time in temporary housing, shelters, trailers, mobile homes, and hotels—and are more vulnerable to permanent displacement. Some “temporary” homes have not proved to be that temporary. In exploring the geography of vulnerability, this book asks why some communities get left behind economically, spatially, and physically before and after disasters strike.


Robert D. Bullard is the Ware Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University. He is the author of twelve books that address sustainable development, environmental racism, urban land use, industrial facility siting, community reinvestment, housing, transportation, and smart growth. His book, Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class and Environmental Quality (Westview Press, 2000), is a standard text in the environmental justice field and he is often considered the “father” of the environmental justice movement.

Beverly Wright is a sociologist and the founding director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice (DSCEJ) at Dillard University (formerly at Xavier University of Louisiana) in New Orleans. She is a leading scholar, advocate, and activist in the environmental justice arena. She served on the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights for the state of Louisiana and to the city of New Orleans’ Select Committee for the Sewerage and Water Board. She is co-chair of the National Black Environmental Justice Network and the Environmental Justice Climate Change (EJCC) Initiative. Her most recent publications are In the Wake of the Storm: Environment, Disaster, and Race After Katrina (Russell Sage Foundation 2006) and Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty: 1987–2007 (United Church of Christ 2007). She is a native of New Orleans and a survivor of Hurricane Katrina.

Foreword – Mark H. Morial, president of the National Urban League and former mayor of New Orleans

Introduction – Robert D. Bullard and Beverly Wright

Part I Challenges of a Racialized Place

Chapter 1—Race, Place, and the Environment in Post-Katrina New Orleans, Robert D. Bullard and Beverly Wright

Chapter 2—The Overlooked Significance of “Place” in Law and Policy: Lesson from Hurricane Katrina, Debra Lyn Bassett

Chapter 3—Transportation Matters: Stranded on the Side of the Road Before and After Disasters Strike, Robert D. Bullard, Glenn S. Johnson, and Angel O. Torres

Chapter 4—Katrina and the Condition of Black New Orleans: The Struggle for Justice, Equity, and Democracy, Mtangulizi Sanyika

Part II Health and Environment Post-Katrina

Chapter 5—Contaminants in the Air and Soil in New Orleans After the Flood: Opportunities and Limitations for Community Empowerment, Rachel Godsil, Albert Huang, and Gina Solomon

Chapter 6—Investing in Human Capital and Healthy Rebuilding in the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Sheila J. Webb

Chapter 7—Making the Case for Community-Based Laboratories: A New Strategy for Environmental Justice, Earthea Nance

Part III Equitable Rebuilding and Recovery

Chapter 8—Post-Katrina Profiteering: The New Big Easy, Rita J. King

Chapter 9—Rebuilding Lives Post-Katrina: Choices and Challenges in New Orleans’s Economic Development, Robert K. Whelan and Denise Strong

Chapter 10—The Color of Opportunity and the Future of New Orleans: Planning, Rebuilding and Social Inclusion After Hurricane Katrina, Mafruza Khan

Chapter 11—Housing Recovery in the Ninth Ward: Disparities in Policy,Process, and Prospects, Lisa K. Bates and Rebekah A. Green

Part IV Policy Choices for Social Change

Chapter 12—Unnatural Disaster: Social Impacts and Policy Choices After Katrina, John R. Logan

Afterword–Looking Back to Move Foreward, Beverly Wright and Robert D. Bullard

“There have been many books written about Hurricane Katrina but none has the range and power of Race, Place, and Environmental Justice After Hurricane Katrina. Bullard, Wright, and the contributors cover all the issues: the pre-existing social and environmental injustices, the lack of preparation for disaster, and the skewed political and economic structure that made sure that Katrina’s wrath would be felt most sharply in low-income communities of color. But most significantly, they offer one of the most detailed, analytical, and rigorous looks at the aftermath: the toxic soup left behind, the economic, physical and social challenges of rebuilding, and the shifting demographics and politics of New Orleans. This is a must-read for anyone concerned with the devastating effects Katrina had on Louisiana and the nation, and a worthy anchor text for courses on environmental justice, social inequality, and the American future.”
—Manuel Pastor, University of Southern California

“Race, Place, and Environmental Justice reveals how the political disasters confronting New Orleans before Katrina and in the rebuilding process afterwards wreaked far more damage on the city than the storm itself, a context that unfortunately prevails in virtually every major US city.”
—Gregory D. Squires, George Washington University

“The natural disaster of Katrina played out across a social landscape of racial injustice and savage inequality. Bullard and Wright have assembled a fascinating set of pioneering works on the antecedents, the storm, and the aftermath, providing key lessons for rebuilding New Orleans and our broader society. A major contribution to our understanding of who suffers from so- called natural disasters and how to recover.”
—J. Timmons Roberts, The College of William and Mary

“Anyone seriously studying Katrina’s impact must read Professors Bullard and Wright. This book is a gem.”
—William Quigley, Loyola University New Orleans

“This heavily researched and annotated collection of essays on the ‘geography of vulnerability’ as found in the aftermath of Katrina is an overwhelming analysis of a microcosm of American society. Written by experts in environmental justice, land-use policy, and political science, it addresses everything from transportation infrastructure to social inequality and urban development. … With solid, fact-based conclusions, responsible recommendations, and chapters on rebuilding efforts, this title should serve as a textbook for today’s urban planners.”
Booklist

“Bullard and Wright’s set of essays begins to make sense of the government policies that allowed New Orleans to flood, as well as post-Katrina efforts to rebuild the city and region. This collection is a reminder that there is a lot of work that still needs to be done. … Race, Place, and Environmental Justice After Hurricane Katrina isn’t exactly an easy or light-hearted read, but it is full of important information that will be of particular interest to people interested in the theoretical importance of the concept of place, as well as anyone interested in better understanding environmental justice and racial disparities.”
Feminist Review

“This groundbreaking volume seamlessly integrates disaster research and the study of environmental justice. … One of the most comprehensive portraits of Katrina available to date. … The policy recommendations offer a starting point for classroom discussion and debate and could easily be used to create in-class exercises and other activities designed to promote critical thinking skills. … Because this book is written by an interdisciplinary group of scholars, the text would work well in an array of different upper-division undergraduate or graduate level classes, including general race and ethnic relations, sociology of disaster, environmental justice, emergency management, urban planning, and public health courses. … A valuable teaching tool in sociology and other disciplines.”
—Teaching Sociology

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