This paper documents the organizational strategies of three Alabama community groups that have mobilized against the siting of municipal landfills. All three communities are predominately African-American, rural, and lower-income. The framework of environmental justice is applied to understand common elements of the three communities' experiences. The primary focus, however, is on differences between the cases that brought forward markedly different strategies. The purpose of this paper is to critically examine the different approaches taken by each community, and to identify factors and strategies that were crucial to success or failure from the perspective of landfill opponents. Responsiveness of local political leaders and their willingness to make a decision to approve a landfill proposal only after open public debate was found to be important, as was the ability of landfill opponents to effectively solicit support not only from the immediately affected community but from the county as a whole. Organizational approaches that emphasized active participation and self-education were more successful than control over group activities being in the hands of a small number of individuals, no matter how well-meaning. The three case studies also allow for consideration of purely political approaches to oppose landfill siting compared to formal legal challenges to such proposals.
Merritt, Lani. 2001. "Common Cause: A Comparative Case Study of Three Alabama Communities Organizing Against Landfills." Journal of Rural Social Sciences, 17(1): Article 7. Available at: https://egrove.olemiss.edu/jrss/vol17/iss1/7