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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2016, 13(10), 979; doi:10.3390/ijerph13100979

Community Theories of Change: Linking Environmental Justice to Sustainability through Stakeholder Perceptions in Milwaukee (WI, USA)

1
Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 1102 S. Goodwin Ave., Urbana, IL 61801, USA
2
Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, North Carolina State University, 2820 Faucette Dr., Raleigh, NC 27695, USA
3
Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 611 Lorado Taft Dr., Champaign, IL 61820, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Jayajit Chakraborty, Sara E. Grineski and Timothy W. Collins
Received: 1 July 2016 / Revised: 23 September 2016 / Accepted: 26 September 2016 / Published: 30 September 2016
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Abstract

Environmental justice and sustainability are compatible lenses, yet action toward equity is often missing from urban sustainability initiatives. This study aims to assess the cohesion of these frameworks in practice. To do this, we parse individuals’ theories of change, or how they identify and propose to resolve environmental injustices in the pursuit of sustainability. We posit that these theories of change are comprised of three main components: (1) perceived environmental benefits and burdens; (2) the causal pathways of environmental and social injustice; and (3) visions for positive change. Drawing from 35 stakeholder interviews in Milwaukee (WI, USA) we examine individual and institutional perspectives on environmental and social change and their links to the production of injustice. Our findings reveal that participants do not distinguish between environmental and social injustices. Instead, both social and environmental factors are implicated in injustice. Furthermore, we identify two mental maps for how social and economic change reproduce injustice. These findings suggest the need to reorient how urban injustice is considered and make efforts to acknowledge how a diversity of operational theories of change could either be divisive or could bring environmental justice and sustainability initiatives together. View Full-Text
Keywords: production of injustice; socioecological interactions; perceptions; interviews production of injustice; socioecological interactions; perceptions; interviews
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MDPI and ACS Style

Hornik, K.; Cutts, B.; Greenlee, A. Community Theories of Change: Linking Environmental Justice to Sustainability through Stakeholder Perceptions in Milwaukee (WI, USA). Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2016, 13, 979.

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