Date of Award

Spring 5-24-2015

Document Type

Undergraduate Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies

Department

Sociology

Advisor

Dr. Julia Cantzler

Abstract

This paper examines the obstacles and opportunities social activists face when attempting to fight environmental injustices in the San Diego-Tijuana transborder region. The study undertakes a case study of the Environmental Health Coalition (EHC) - the leading environmental justice organization in the region, which operates on both sides of the US-Mexico Border. The analyses conclude that despite a strong rhetoric of binationalism employed throughout border activists’ campaigns, the strategies that are utilized on the ground have been vastly local and short-term in focus. While activist organizations like the EHC demonstrate a keen awareness of the binational implications of environmental injustices and tout the benefits of a binational approach to addressing these problems, discrepancies are present due to obstacles that are economic, political and perceptual in nature. Ultimately, perceptions about the existence of environmental injustices as well as their character affect whether communities engage in local, short-term strategies to address immediate health concerns, or binational, long-term strategies that address the paradigmatic structures that underlie and perpetuate injustices. Key variables that shape community members’ and activists’ perceptions of environmental injustice include the economic situation that dictates individuals’ priorities and their ability to affect political decisions, as well as jurisdictional inconsistencies caused by the physical and political nature of the border. These findings contribute to a relatively sparse body of literature on the dynamics of transborder environmental justice activism by demonstrating the strategic shortcomings that perpetuate a true lack of binational collaboration in the San Diego-Tijuana region.