Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 August 2021
Scholars from across the humanities and sciences have deepened our understanding of the relationship between environmental and human health, revealing the centrality of race as a critical variable. Historians, sociologists, and anthropologists have revealed the centrality of race in disparities in access to healthy environments and medical care. Structural inequalities that stem from the legacies of slavery, colonialism, and imperial violence are embedded with racial ideologies that supported those systems. The growth of biomedicine and Western medical institutions in the context of slavery, colonialism, and empire produced medical ideologies of racial difference in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Similarly, environmental movements that emerged in the context of European and US empires emphasized conservation at the expense of indigenous land rights. The long-term impacts of slavery and colonial policies are apparent in studies of environmental damage and health disparities. In the late twentieth century, environmental activists in the Global South and southern USA challenged racism and postcolonial development, and advocated for environmental justice.