2021 article

Cultivating quiescence in risk communities: coal ash contamination and cancer in two cities

Longest, L., Shriver, T. E., & Adams, A. E. (2021, November 22). ENVIRONMENTAL POLITICS.

By: L. Longest n, T. Shriver n & A. Adams*

author keywords: Coal; illness clusters; quiescence; environmental health; social control
UN Sustainable Development Goal Categories
13. Climate Action (Web of Science)
Source: Web Of Science
Added: November 29, 2021

ABSTRACT Extant research on the management of environmental threats in risk communities highlights the control that state actors and other elites exercise over environmental risk assessments. However, less is known about the particular mechanisms of social control used by elected and other state officials to manipulate citizens’ interpretations of risk. We use the case of coal ash contamination in North Carolina to analyze strategies of control aimed at discouraging residents from identifying possible links between contamination and illness. Drawing on a variety of data sources, including in-depth interviews (n = 55) with area residents, we argue that these strategies of control have been central in fostering quiescence, or a lack of activism, in the affected communities. Our findings demonstrate the success of social control mechanisms in forestalling collective community responses to environmental risks as well as the ways expert narratives of exposure influence the public’s ability to identify environmental threats.