Risk and the Structure of Vulnerability in the Rural South

EPA Grant Number: GF9500332
Title: Risk and the Structure of Vulnerability in the Rural South
Investigators: Boyd, William C.
Institution: University of California - Berkeley
EPA Project Officer: Broadway, Virginia
Project Period: June 1, 1995 through January 1, 2000
Project Amount: $26,900
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (1995) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Social Sciences , Economics and Decision Sciences , Academic Fellowships


The purpose of this project is to: 1) analyze the origin and nature of conflicts over the siting of hazardous waste facilities in the rural South; 2) understand how people living in affected communities experience and respond to the risks associated with such facilities; and 3) to explain how siting decisions and community responses relate to a larger structure of vulnerability that has emerged in the rural South over the last century and particularly in the 1980s. The project will identify and develop a series to community-level case studies that will examine the ways in which community residents have experienced and responded to the siting and operation of hazardous waste facilities, and will examine the structure of vulnerability that has emerged in the rural South over the last century. Vulnerability, gauged in terms of income, employment, education and literacy, access to health care, access to capital, housing, and political representation, will be used to situate the exposure to environmental hazards, as well as conflicts over the distribution of such hazards, in the larger context of economic development. The research will include: 1) structural analysis focusing on economic insecurity and vulnerability in the rural South and the economic and regulatory context of hazardous waste management; and 2) case- study research focusing on the political, economic, and cultural factors surrounding the siting and operation of particular hazardous waste facilities on poor, minority communities. The structural analysis will include the development of a statistical compendium of economic development trends in the rural South since 1970. The case study field work will focus on communities that have been divided over the proposal and/or actual siting of hazardous waste facilities, and will draw on documentary information such as government and corporate documents, newspapers, letters, memoranda, etc.; archival and historical records, surveys of community residents; direct observation; and extended interviews with key actors and local residents. The results of the research will be used to inform efforts to build the institutional foundations for sustained, equitable, and environmentally- sensitive economic development in the rural South.

Supplemental Keywords:

RFA, Economic, Social, & Behavioral Science Research Program, Scientific Discipline, environmental justice, decision-making, Sociology, Urban and Regional Planning, Economics & Decision Making, Social Science, Environmental History, Environmental Law, hazardous waste siting, economic insecurity, community response to hazardous waste facility siting, cultural differences, hazardous waste facilities, hazardous waste siting decisions, Rural South, willingness to pay, structure of vulnerability, origin of conflict, risk and vulnerability