Evolution of a Movement offers a new lens for understanding the environmental justice movement in the United States. Using California case studies from the past three decades, Perkins explores the successes and failures of the environmental justice movement in one of the country's most environmentally progressive states. She traces how demographic, political, and economic forces have shaped the development of the environmental justice movement in the states and explains why that matters for national EJ activism.
Drawing on archival research and 125 interviews with activists from Sacramento to the California-Mexico border, Perkins explains the long history of environmental justice activism in California, complicating the accepted origins of environmental justice in the US South. Perkins shows why some EJ activists have moved away from the "outsider" political tactics common in the movements' early days to "insider" political tactics, working from within the state's political system to enact change. This shift has created tension between EJ activists around institutionalization. Some activists see it as a sign of the growing sophistication of social movements, while others critique its potential to blunt grassroots power. At a time when environmental justice scholars and activists face pressing questions about the best route for enacting meaningful change, this book provides insight into social movement institutionalization and assesses the strengths and limitations of this development.