April 6, 2017 1:00pm- – 2:30pm
School of Natural Resources and Environment, Dana 3556
Simone Pulver, UC Santa Barbara Department of Environmental Studies
Title: Disproportionality and the Governance of Environmental Pollution
Abstract: A key feature of society’s impact on the environment is its unevenness. The late environmental sociologist William Freudenburg termed this pattern disproportionality, which he defined as “the strikingly unequal patterns of privileged access to environmental rights and resources” that characterize modern societies and economies. Existing paradigms for analyzing society’s impact on the environment ignore disproportionality or focus on the wrong end of inequality distributions. Pulver presents a new theoretical framework, centered on disproportionality, for analyzing the intersection of economic action and environmental harm. The framework focuses on the role of outliers in driving the patterns of an entire system. The approach is illustrated through a longitudinal, quantitative analysis of disproportionality in the production of toxic pollution in the most polluting sectors of the US economy, over the period from 1988 to 2012. The data show that a small minority of facilities from a select group of about 20 industrial sectors generated 70-80 percent of hazardous waste emissions during the 25-year study period. In addition, the longitudinal data are used to test hypotheses about the drivers of disproportionality, advancing existing cross-sectional research on disproportionality.