Discussion And Conclusion

Ultimately, this is a story about how ordinary people are attempting to maintain control over spaces and bodies that are at risk. A growing number of scholars are concerned with the role of place/space in today's globalizing world. With global communications, trade, and transportation systems circling the planet like never before, with the Internet, fibre optic telecommunication, satellite technologies, real time text messaging, fax machines, FedEx, computer generated automation, and cities that are awake and operating twenty-four hours each day, our sense of place, space, and time have changed dramatically in the last two decades (Lipsitz 2001; Sassen 1998, 2001; Swyngedouw and Heynen 2003). They have all become compressed because it simply takes less time to get from one place to another and places seem less distinct, less foreign and more accessible than in the past, as McDonalds, Disney, Sony, and Nike make their mark around the planet and allow us to walk into a familiar scene in virtually any major city in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Place seems to matter less and less.

Saskia Sassen (1998, 2001) takes on this notion that place—particularly urban places—matter less. She argues that cities are the key places and primary nodes for making the global economy possible. That is, cities provide the crucial infrastructure, the physical material and technology, immigrant economies, and sites of production and services that make the global economy function. Lipsitz (2001) also addresses the question of place but from another scale. He considers the idea that nation-states matter less in a global economy. Although it may appear that the power and influence of transnational corporations have superseded the nation-state, the state continues to be an indispensable component of the global system. The state serves as a crucial resource to multinational corporations by supplying mechanisms for capital accumulation and technological innovation through direct investment by governments, indirect support for research and development, tax abatements, and R&D spending on the infrastructure of global capital, for example high tech and the Internet, which were originally developed by the US military. The state also supplies transnational corporations with political regulation through direct repression of insurrections and strikes as well as through agreeing to international treaties like the WTO that deprive citizens of the power to use politics to challenge corporate power, environmental pollution, labour exploitation, and monopolies. The state helps discipline the labour force and imprisons surplus labour. The elite classes and racial/ethnic groups in nation-states benefit from this dynamic, from Venezuela to Malaysia. The very existence of nation-states encourages a cessation of internal hostilities among domestic populations and the projection of anger and resentment against outside enemies rather than internal elites (Chua 2003; Lipsitz 2001): consider the current situation where social inequality between the classes and races in the US is staggering and growing steadily, the labour movement is nearly crushed, environmental protection is all but dismantled, and the rights of citizens are being stripped away while nearly all of the political focus is on immigrants as potential terrorists and on alleged terrorist threats and rogue regimes abroad. Other scholars have considered the adaptive role the state plays in the face of powerful forces of capital, including "variegated" forms of flexible regulation and zoning (Ong 2004) and the creative reorganization of state intervention vis-à-vis neoliberalism (Brenner and Theodore 2002:345). That being said, the power of transnational corporations is considerable and must be seriously considered and theorized vis-à-vis social movements.

The scholarly literature on transnational social movements, advocacy networks, and global civil society is marked by the absence of a serious integration of political economy into models of opportunity structures. It would seem that this is an important observation if we are considering the role of transnational corporate activities involving the export and dumping of hazardous wastes from Northern nations to Southern nations. This point is also noteworthy because it shapes the political economic environment in which local and global movements for environmental justice operate.

As powerful as nation-states and transnational corporations may be, it is always critical to remember that political economic opportunities are "not only perceived and taken advantage of by social movements, but they are also created" (Khagram et al. 2002:17). For example, one of the most effective ways to create access to domestic political systems is through international pressure. When local activists and advocates abroad make an issue visible to the rest of the world it can create a "boomerang effect", which "curves around" local nation-state indifference and oppression to place pressure on states for policy changes (Keck and Sikkink 1998:200). This is what the international political opportunity structure frequently looks like: the combination of closed structures domestically with more accessible structures elsewhere in places where TSMOs may be based. Through the Computer TakeBack Campaign, social movement groups in the South and the North were able to change state and corporate practices in the US and Europe that are expected to improve the situation on the ground in nations where e-waste dumping actually takes place.

Consistent with the political economic process model, environmental justice activists working on e-waste have not limited themselves to a state-centric approach, with regard to movement targets. In addition to pushing states like California and Maine to pass laws that ban e-waste from landfills, they have also successfully pressured the electronics industry and specific companies to change their practices. A political economic process approach that targets states and private corporations responsible for pollution is critical for achieving local and global environmental justice.

Related to considerations of environmental justice is the literature on urban political ecology, in which scholars concerned with urban spaces emphasize the interactive relationship between cities and nature. Theorizing urban spaces as socionatural spaces forces us to acknowledge that not only are the state and capital interdependent with one another, they are both entirely dependent upon and regularly shape the planet's natural resource base (Swyngedouw and Heynen 2003). Thus the pollution of urban areas is not fundamentally distinct from the despoliation of rural spaces because they are part of the same process and reflect the urbanization of nature on a global scale. What this means for social movements for environmental justice is that distinctions between urban or rural spaces or local and global geographies should matter less because the principal issue at hand is the phenomenon of socioenvironmental harm, which cuts across all of these constructed divides. Social movements that successfully bridge those divides may be much more effective. As Peck and Tickell (2002:401) argue, movement "campaigns of disruption" must be accompanied by a "reform of macroinstitutional priorities and the remaking of extralocal rule systems". With its focus on changing the discourse and material nature of transnational corporations' policies and international law/multilateral conventions, the transnational environmental justice movement has done just that.

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