Date Awarded

Winter 2022

Document Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)


Virginia Institute of Marine Science


Robert Hale

Committee Member

Donna Bilkovic

Committee Member

Molly Blondell


The Environmental Justice (EJ) movement has long highlighted the disproportionate exposure to environmental hazards experienced by Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and low-income communities across the country. Environmental practitioners have recently focused on utilizing EJ screening tools, which combine environmental and social data to visualize vulnerable communities, to begin to address environmental injustice rampant in BIPOC and low-income communities. This project explores EJ theoretical frameworks and the historical context of social oppression and environmental pollution in the Elizabeth River watershed (ERW) of Virginia to: 1) understand the social, political, and economic context behind environmental injustice; and 2) generate goals to address environmental injustice with a particular focus on utilizing EJ screening tools. This project highlights five EJ theoretical frameworks that can be used to explain disproportionate exposure to environmental hazards: 1) Racism and Discrimination; 2) Exploitation, Manipulation, Enticement, and Intimidation; 3) Institutional Practices; 4) Economics; and 5) Physical Characteristics and provides an overview of the history of the ERW to highlight the operation of these frameworks. Further, this project suggests three major goals to address environmental injustice: 1) empowering communities through equitable and just community engagement; 2) mapping distributions of environmental hazards, social factors, and institutional practices using EJ screening tools; and 3) ensuring that environmental amenities, burdens, and practices are equitably distributed and target vulnerable communities using EJ screening tools. This project serves as a framework for exploring the social, political, and economic contexts that give rise to environmental injustice and how EJ screening tools can be used to begin addressing them.




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