Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2015

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Jill Harrison

Second Advisor

Abby Hickcox

Third Advisor

Dale Miller


This project explores how grassroots environmental justice (EJ) nonprofits discursively construct solutions for economic justice under neoliberal capitalism. Specifically, this paper aims to examine if certain EJ organizations use neoliberal or Solidarity Economy (SE) rhetoric and mechanisms for change in their economic campaigns. In the Environmental Justice Movement (EJM), divergent opinions exist about the use of neoliberal rhetoric and reformist strategies in environmental justice (EJ) activism. While some EJ scholars express the movement should advance justice through working to deconstruct capitalism, others assert the radical “high road” is politically infeasible and that groups must collaborate with existing economic and political systems. This study conducts a discourse analysis to assess the text of 40 grassroots EJ organizations’ websites for rhetoric and strategies advocating neoliberal or SE ideology and reformist or radical political approaches to change. Further, this analysis illustrates that the three case study coalitions and their affiliated nonprofits are generally pursuing a Solidarity Economy framework and using both reformist and radical rhetoric and mechanisms for change in their campaigns for economic and environmental justice.