Socialism and Environmental Justice: Themes, Questions, and Resources

Themes and Questions

Capitalism and the Environment
1. Is environmental destruction inevitable under capitalism? What are some proposals to reform/control capitalism in favor of the environment? Can they work? Why/why not?

2. How do we evaluate the alternatives to capitalism that are floating around the radical environmental movements? What is proposed and how do we assess this from the point of view of an intersectional approach.

Environmental Racism

3. What are some interesting accounts of environmental racism from a Marxist (class) perspective?

4. What are the main issues in environmental racism? How has the movement for environmental justice responded to these issues?

5. What challenges have faced community-based movements against environmental racism? What strategies have been used to successfully meet these challenges?

Labor/Movements and Environmental Justice
6. How have unions/workers’ centers/environmental justice organizations thought about the connection between workers’ rights and empowerment and environmental protection?

7. Are the movements around environmental justice in the U.S. and the global south different in how they relate to other movements (around labor/women’s rights/health/trade/poverty)?

8. What successful coalitions have been built around labor and environment and what accounts for success? What accounts for failure?

Models and Organizational Differences in the EJM
9. How do the different kinds of organizations in the environmental justice movement relate to each other? (e.g. are there important differences among non-profit organizations, what sorts of organizations seem to maintain a more radical practice and why?)

10. How are community-based environmental justice campaigns/organizations different from national or international NGO style environmental justice campaigns in terms of the organizing model they use, levels of participation of working class people, how they relate to other movements.

Gender and Environmental Justice
11. Working-class women (white and women of color) seem to be more prominent in environmental justice organizing at the community level than in many other movements. What accounts for this? What happens to women’s leadership once the movement expands beyond the local level?

12. What are some gender differences in the impact of environmental degradation on working-class communites? How, if at all, is the environmental justice movement addressing these differences?

13. Do metaphors about women/nature, race/nature shape policies that lie behind the environmental destruction affecting working-class communities and communities of color?


1. Joel Kovel, Ecosocialism, Chapter 9 of The Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or the End of the World?, Zed Books, London, 2002.

2. Joel Kovel, Ecosocialism Now, from New Socialist, Summer 2007.

3. Marsha J. Tyson Darling, The State, Friend or Foe? Distributive Justice Issues and African American Women published in Dangerous Intersections: Feminist Perspectives on Population, Environment and Development, South End Press, Cambridge, 1999.

Other essays from Marsha J. Tyson Darling available
online here.

4. The Principles of Environmental Justice adopted by the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, 1991. Online here.

5. Van Jones, Vanity Fair: The Unbearable Whiteness of Green from the Huffington Post, May 17, 2007.

6. Veronica Lake, The New World War: Water from Against the Current #108, January/February 2004.