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Defining and Contesting Environmental Justice: Socio-natures and the Politics of Scale in the Delta

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This article examines a contemporary process intended to “identify a strategy for managing the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta as a sustainable ecosystem that would continue to support environmental and economic functions that are critical to the people of California” ( Delta Vision 2008, Environmental injustices in the Delta are exacerbated by connected conflicts between knowledge and power, over the scale at which “environmental justice” and the “Delta” are understood through public policy. The rejection of environmental justice and the socio-natural in the Delta Vision process represents how contemporary policy processes are recreating and reenacting the power/knowledge dynamics that have defined the Delta, placed it on a path to ecological collapse and injected high levels of social and racial injustice in its landscape over the past 150 years. Our article combines an ethnographic and a historical geographical approach that contributes to the literature on environmental justice and scale and links with the literature on water governance and power to advance the task of defining environmental justice from the academic and policy perspectives.

Keywords: California; Delta; environmental justice; scale; socio-nature; water governance

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of California at Davis, One Shields Ave, Davis, CA, USA;, Email:

Publication date: 2009-09-01

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