Mapping the Movement: The Future of Identifying and Addressing Cumulative Impacts

Charles Lee, long-standing activist, advisor, and policymaker, is in a unique position to assess developments within the environmental justice (EJ) movement by virtue of his nearly 40-year career dedicated to advancing EJ. Currently serving as the Senior Policy Advisor for Environmental Justice at the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), he leads the development and implementation of EPA’s agency-wide environmental justice strategic plans. In 1987, when the EJ movement was in its infancy, Mr. Lee served as the principal author of the seminal report Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States,1 the first national study to examine the relationship between the geography and demographics of hazardous waste sites, and one of the first studies to provide data supporting what had long been suspected by many: a pattern of disproportionate environmental burdens in low income and minority areas.2 The Toxic Wastes and Race report spurred “an entire generation of social science researchers investigating the interplay between race, class and the environment[,]” generating academic research and scholarship on the relationship between race, class, and the environment that had not previously existed.3

Click here for a PDF of the full article.

Copyright © 2021 Environmental Law Institute®, Washington, DC. Reprinted with permission from ELR®,, 1-800-433-5120.

1. See generally Commission for Racial Justice, United Church of Christ, Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States: A National Report on Racial and Socio-Economic Characteristics of Communities With Hazardous Waste Sites (1987) (hereinafter Toxic Wastes and Race report or Toxic Wastes and Race).
2. See Diane Morrison, Rallying Point: Charles Lee’s Long-Standing Career in Environmental Justice, 99 (Suppl. 3) Am. J. Pub. Health S508 (2009) (“‘Toxic Wastes and Race’ was the first report to use rigorous analysis and
methods to show how pollution and environmental hazards were disproportionately affecting minority and low-income communities.”); see also Robert D. Bullard et al., Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty: 1987-2007 2 (Mar.
2007) (generally discussing the impact of the Toxic Wastes and Race report).
3. See Bullard et al., supra note 2.