This paper is the latest in a series of articles written to conceptualize an alternative to the distributive paradigm espoused by the environmental justice movement. It is clear that early studies such as the "Toxic Waste and Race in the United States: A National Report on the Racial and Socio-Economic Characteristics of Communities with Hazardous Waste Sites" prepared by the Commission for Racial Justice of the United Church of Christ exposed the potential our present model of environmental regulation has to create distributional inequities and forced policymakers to identify how the burdens as well as the benefits of environmental protection are spread among groups of persons.
It is also clear to me that distributive theories of environmental justice are inadequate to justify a more just environmental policy or support the aims of the environmental justice movement. I share with Iris Marion Young a view that the distributive paradigm's implicit assumption that social judgments are about what individual person have, how much they have, and how that amount compares with what other persons have and the belief that this focus on possession is limiting. Distributive theories of justice tend to preclude thinking about what people are doing according to what institutionalized rules, how their doings and havings are structured by institutionalized relations that constitute their positions, and how the combined effects of their doings has recursive effects on their lives. What I attempt to do in this paper is to shift the focus of the discussion away from the distribution and on the decision-making structures and procedures which determine what there is to distribute, how it gets distributed, who distributes and what the distributive outcome is. To paraphrase Ms. Young, environmental injustice occurs not simply because some persons have cleaner air and water than others' environmental injustice derives as much from the corporate and legal structures and procedures that give some persons the power to make decisions that affect millions of other people.