This article can be found in the current issue of the Journal of Urban Affairs regarding Promoting Social Justice and Equity in Shrinking Cities.
This article currently has free access and is available to read and download.
Shrinking cities are places characterized by long-term population decline, property abandonment, social inequality, and environmental degradation. Urban scholarship, however, has not yet addressed the challenges of promoting social and environmental justice in shrinking cities. Focusing on Kitakyushu City, Japan, this article explores the manner in which grassroots movements can push forward environmental justice and how that can lead to policies coping with urban shrinkage and environmental degradation. Kitakyushu City was Japan’s major iron and steel center during the rapid industrialization years, which culminated in severe environmental degradation. The need for environmental justice pushed grassroots movements and, in particular, women’s associations to initiate different campaigns aimed at raising awareness of the city’s environmental hazards and to trigger governmental response. Since then, environmental policies are driving Kitakyushu City’s fight against the negative consequences that shrinkage brings about in Japanese cities. Using case study methodology and critically assessing the implemented policies, this article argues that seeking environmental justice presents an opportunity to tackle long-term decline. Hence, the article explores the theoretical implications and empirical factors behind environmental justice as the basis for a new urban revitalization model.