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Reflection Essay – Framing in the UK vs the US

Framing and Claim Making
The emergence of environmental justice in the US began in the 1980s in local communities who were fighting the placement of waste sites in the area. As the movement grew, the minority communities began to use the language of environmental justice, which gave them a step up in the new political world they found themselves fighting in. Soon the connection was made on the national level that minority communities across the nation were being the victims of environmental injustice. These communities began to broaden the framework, to more than just waste sites. A national movement emerged as they created a ‘master framework’.
Walker establishes seven key characteristics of the US environmental framework and how it has evolved over the past three decades. The first characteristic Walker notes reminds the readers of the heavily racial emergence. The frame at first was based on the civil rights framework and was extremely tied to racial injustice; however, as the movement grew the purely racial environmental framework ceased to characterize the frame. Through the years it adjusted to a framework of broader politics including race, gender, and class. Second, Walker presents the anthropogenic characteristics of the environmental framework in the US. Walker writes, “It has maintained focus on questions of justice to people in the environment rather than expressing a politicized concern for justice to nature.” (Walker, 20) Third, Walker suggests that the US environmental justice framework was extremely risk based. The framework was concerned about the environmental bad that was associated with the proposal of new facilities in the nation; however as the framework grew it “moved beyond environmental burdens to include access to environmental benefits and resources of various forms and concerns which some argue could, or should, be classified as social rather than environmental.” (Walker, 20)
Fourth, Walker argues how the EJ framework in the US has evolved from distributive justice to be more concerned about participation. Though he does mention distributive justice still dominates. The fifth characteristic of US EJ framework involves placing blame or responsibly. Walker notes the sixth characteristic of the US EJ framework to be how extremely intranational the framework has remained throughout history. the horizontal interconnections connected the local grassroots battles across the nation, and the “vertical scaling up to national claims and regulatory settings.” (Walker, 23) . Finally, Walker’s seventh characteristic notes the political emergence of the framework into government and other agencies. Walker writes, “An essentially managerial framing has been adopted by the EPA and other agencies, one that is far more narrowly conceived than that of the activist community, and much criticized in its implementation.
Walker does not mention, however, the government’s role in the framework. Everything in the American environmental justice framework becomes extremely political. And as with most things, politics changes the plan and original purpose of ideas. Politics and scientific matters never merge seamlessly. Science holds itself to stricter rules, and politics uses less rigid, more likely to be bent, rules. When dealing with environmental risk the involvement of politics can belittle the scientific and social problems.
Walker does not mention the characteristic role of the media. Once media attention focuses on environmental protests, such as those organizations protesting water privatization, the members who are responsible tend to react sooner. Outcomes generally favor the protesters because the parties who are being protested would rather the protesting, and public relation nightmare, stop.
Environmental justice in the UK had a much later start. There are similarities and differences between the framing in the UK and in the US. Toxic waste sites in the UK were similarly located in unjust locations. The UK also drew from the US framing but with some redefining so that the new frame was adjusted for the UK political context.
In the US, the framework was started at as grassroots level, which was the opposite for the UK. In the UK, “it was a mainstream and established environmental group, Friends of the Earth that first started to work with an environmental justice frame in the UK.” (Walker 25) Another difference in the UK framing was in the relationship patterns. In the US, minority groups were targeted for waste sites and toxic waste sites; however, in the UK, social class was connected to the siting instead of race. The study of the patterns of income instead of race reflected the UK reflected the, “lack of strong race-based civil rights mobilization in the UK.” (Walker 26) All in all, there was an extreme lack of racial connections in the UK framing.
Another difference between the US and UK framing was how quickly and easily the UK framing was accepted into the UK governance systems. In the US, it took years of campaigning and adjustment of tactics to get governance to accept the frame work. The UK was so quick in accepting the framework in part because of how the framework could be incorporated into existing frames such as the dimensions of sustainability that was already in place. Scotland acted a little differently than the rest of the London focused UK, and choose a more radical campaign that linked local and global issues.
Agyeman, (see link) in his article “Constructing Environmental (in)Justice: Transatlantic Tales, Environmental Politics”, also notes that the UK did not have the civil rights framework to work off of like the US did at the beginning of the environmental justice framing. However, the UK current frame centers on “equity, rights, and equity” (Agyeman 32). Throughout the article Agyeman notes the similarities and differences between the UK and US frameworks.
J. Agyeman (2002): Constructing Environmental (in)Justice: Transatlantic Tales, Environmental Politics,
11:3, 31-53

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