Dr. Thurka Sangaramoorthy's new publication,"Framing Environmental Health Decision-Making: The Struggle over Cumulative Impacts Policy" is available open access HERE. It is co-authored with MAA graduate, Helen Mittmann, and is based on work that Helen did for her yearlong MAA internship project.
"We have been conducting ethnographic research on one of the most persistent intractable environmental policy controversies in the U.S.: cumulative impacts. We were curious as to why so little progress has been made to advance U.S. federal policy responses to growing scientific findings about cumulative environmental health impacts and risks, which also show that many low income and racial and ethnic minority populations bear a disproportionate share of multiple environmental burdens.
Recent work points to a “standard narrative” by which policy makers rationalize their slow efforts on environmental justice because of perceived lack of scientific data and analytical tools. Our findings, however, show that policy impasse in Maryland over cumulative impacts is highly dependent on how policy-relevant actors come to frame issues around legislating cumulative impacts, rather than the “standard narrative” of external factors. In fact, we found that community advocates, business leaders, and policymakers held drastically different perspectives on what counts as scientific evidence, whether social justice is a viable policy concern, and which authoritative body is ultimately responsible in resolving environmental harm to communities of color.
To our knowledge, this is the first study published to draw on constructivist and interpretive approaches to better understand the implicit role that values, beliefs, and worldviews have on the cumulative impacts policy process. This paper also adds to ethnographic research on public policy. In light of recent calls to strengthen the environmental health of societies to reduce vulnerability to future pandemics, our work is timely."