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Toxics, Taste, and Trust : Emergence of Social Infrastructure Configurations in Environmental Governance

Sat, October 9, 5:00 to 6:30pm EDT (5:00 to 6:30pm EDT), 4S 2021 Virtual, 6


Understanding the impact of environmental governance on urban futures requires analyzing the relations involved in negotiating over-regulation and under-regulation of toxics within the risk-based environmental regulatory regime of the United States. In this talk, I argue that striking this balance to produce outcomes for state-driven regulatory programs is vitally dependent on a social infrastructure composed of long-standing relations amongst community members. This social infrastructure scaffolds various configurations of interactions across time, territorial scales, and federal, state, and local levels of participation and governance to achieve outcomes such as the enforcement of emissions reductions and land rezoning. Through a case of regulating chrome plating in Southern California, I examine one of many social infrastructure configurations that reveal factors that compound or curtail the desired effects of the regulatory regime in a time of late industrialism. Specifically, I tease out factors at the nexus of toxics, taste, and trust to argue that social infrastructures manage relations of trust and mistrust, which in turn can highlight issues such as cultural taste that are rarely addressed in regulatory discourse but can stymie the advance of the regulatory regime. I conclude that the environmental regulatory regime doesn’t merely involve developing and implementing rules and standards but also fragile and provisional social relations to organize how various stakeholders assert their power or lack thereof in urban environmental governance towards more just futures.