All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Tina K Reuter

Advisory Committee Members

Shauntice Allen

Jordan Kiper

Document Type

Thesis

Date of Award

2020

Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

Environmental justice seeks to address the unequal burden of environmental problems experienced by minority and low-income communities and to ensure their meaningful participation in decision-making processes. While there is increasing attention being paid to the unequal distribution, there is a lack of work that focuses explicitly on public participation in an environmental justice context. Environmental problems, in general, are complex and involve a variety of stakeholders, and environmental justice problems are further complicated by the interconnections of structural racism, historical trauma, and damaged relationships. Many of these complexities can be seen in the ongoing efforts at the 35th Avenue Superfund site in North Birmingham, Alabama. Unfortunately, current public participation models and techniques fail to adequately address the specific complexities of environmental justice. The result is that the public is barred from meaningfully impacting the decisions and decision-making process and the practice falls short of addressing the underlying causes and tensions within these problems. This work seeks to address these shortcomings by offering a reconceptualization of the role of public participation as a positive peacebuilding process. Positive peace is both the process and outcome of eliminating structural violence and creating a socially just society founded on human rights. Within this new frame, public participation serves as a structural condition, an institutional process for building that more peaceful society. Public participation can serve as a unique process for this because it has the potential to offer a space to build public capacity to engage with the past, present, and future.

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