Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Community Planning (MCP)


Community Planning

First Advisor

William Gordon


In the early 1990's social activists driven by a concern with the uneven impacts of toxic pollution drew the attention of federal policy makers, establishing an official discourse focused on the issue of environmental justice. The concerns of these activists were supported by a number of statistical and Geographic Information System (GIS)-based studies of demographic patterns and toxic sites (Foreman, 1998).

The concept of environmental justice is based on the premise that disadvantaged groups such as the poor and racial and ethnic minorities bear a disproportionate burden of the negative externalities associated with economic development, including toxic pollution exposure (Buzzelli et al. 2003). Over the past decade and a half, environmental justice, which began as a loosely organized social movement -has become institutionalized in a number of federal, state and local policies and bureaucracies (Holifield, 2001). The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), requires the integration of environmental justice into " ... all programs, activities, -consistent with existing environmental laws and their implementing regulations (EPA, 2001)." The implementation of environmental justice policies is intended to establish environmental equity, or an equitable distribution of environmental pollution, health risk, and also access to environmental amenities (Holifield, 2001).

This study examines and evaluates spatial approaches to identify, and quantify environmental justice concerns existing in the City of Providence, Rhode Island. The study applies geographic information systems (GIS) technology; making use of existing geospatial data for selected toxic sites, and socio-demographic data from the 2000 US Census. Proximity measures are used as a means of quantifying the potential risk associated with the selected hazardous/toxic sites. The distributions of risk across various socio-demographic gradients are examined to highlight disproportionate impacts, or the lack thereof.



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