M. X. Mitchell; Offshoring American Environmental Law: Land, Culture, and Marshall Islanders’ Struggles for Self-Determination During the 1970s. Enviro Hist Durh N C 2017 emw101. doi: 10.1093/envhis/emw101
This article explores the impact of environmental law in US-controlled Micronesia. Historians have suggested that US environmental legislation and legal activism during the 1960s and 1970s often overlooked issues of environmental racism and injustice. This article establishes the importance of these emerging environmental laws for Marshall Islanders living under American rule and subjected to the harms of nuclear weapons testing. In 1972 the displaced people of Enewetak Atoll—a former nuclear test site—sued the United States hoping to stop a new program of conventional weapons testing on their badly contaminated ancestral atoll. The capacious concept of the environment used in the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and the statute’s ambiguous territorial reach offered islanders important new opportunities to articulate their environmental values and to further their struggles for self-determination over ancestral lands and waters. This article argues that environmental law transcended the artificial territorial boundaries between the United States and its Pacific dependencies, opening up an important new venue of negotiation and conflict over the scope and environmental footprint of US offshore power.