Spatial and Environmental Injustice in an American Metropolis: A Study of Tampa Bay, Florida

by Jayajit Chakraborty and M. Martin Bosman


Over the course of the last three decades, inequities in the social and spatial distribution of various environmental hazards and risks in the U.S. have spawned considerable activism, spurred policy debates, and generated substantial academic scholarship. While other books have focused on environmental injustice in the U.S. South, no single volume has examined such issues and problems in Florida at the metropolitan scale. This book is a compilation of original empirical research on the nexus between the environmental and social inequalities in Tampa Bay, Florida’s fastest growing metropolitan area. Systematic research about spatial and environmental justice are largely absent from the rich historiography of Florida, especially the Tampa Bay metropolitan area of southwest Florida. Recent empirical evidence suggests that environmental justice is a real and emergent problem within Tampa Bay afflicting many deprived communities and socially excluded groups. Moreover, certain communities are not only unevenly exposed to environmental risks, but are also disproportionately vulnerable to their many adverse health effects. Our book thus fills a critical need to explore both the causes and consequences of environmental injustice in Tampa Bay.

This book combines the latest theoretical insights on spatial and environmental justice with empirical case studies which examine racial/ethnic and socioeconomic inequities associated with various undesirable land uses and pollution sources in Hillsborough County, Tampa Bay’s largest population and economic center. To that end, it utilizes a range of conventional and contemporary analytical approaches and data sources to examine exposure to several hazards, such as abandoned hazardous waste sites, wastewater facilities, air pollution from stationary and mobile sources, and industrial toxic emissions. By focusing on both established and newly emerging questions on spatial and environmental justice, the book bridges academic and applied policy research, engages contemporary urban development issues within a critical policy framework, and introduces spatial and environmental justice by contextualizing these concepts in the wider geographical literature.

The book offers a progressive approach to a more long-term, comprehensive examination of a rapidly emerging field of study that provides academic scholars and decision-makers with new perspectives on a variety of environmental and social challenges confronting metropolitan Florida in the 21st century. It could offer guidance to metropolitan policy makers and planners, especially public health professionals, social welfare providers, infrastructure developers, emergency responders, and community activists. For this reason, this book should also be of interest to business associations, environmental groups, and members of the general public. The lacuna in both academic scholarship and policy debate about Tampa Bay is compounded by the fact that most of the current attention tends to privilege the region’s exposure to natural hazards, particularly floods and hurricanes, or highlight ecological damage such as the loss of mangroves and seagrass, or the protection of endangered species. As a consequence, insufficient attention has been paid to various kinds of human-induced hazards, particularly health risks emanating from exposure to industrial pollutants, automobile emissions, and derelict hazardous waste sites, which are the byproducts of the region’s manic growth strategies that are marked by unfettered suburban commercial and residential developments and ambitious economic globalization agendas. To demonstrate that geography is a vibrant discipline, this book offers a new perspective on an emerging research agenda and public policy issue, bridges academic and applied literatures, engages contemporary economic and political developments in Tampa Bay, and contextualizes the concepts of spatial and environmental justice in real places by critically illustrating their significance through empirical case studies based on publicly available data.

This is an important book for collections in environmental studies, geography, sociology, policy studies, and urban studies.


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