Environmental justice (EJ) in the United States has emerged and evolved in a range of ways. Although founded in explanations of distributional justice (i.e., place and proximity), scholars and activists have expanded our understandings of environmental (in)justice through ideas about recognition, participation, capabilities, and more. In this article, we seek to complement and extend this work by exploring EJ through the lens of a watershed. We consider the case of the Bronx River watershed where environmental injustices are not only proximate, they are also created and exacerbated through upstream/downstream relationships. In other words, the Bronx is at the receiving end of upstream environmental governance, where various forms of pollution are introduced and flow downstream, contributing to already-existing injustices. This perspective suggests the importance of a multiscalar EJ approach that brings attention to the problems created when diverse municipalities share a single watershed, and resulting environmental harms are disproportionately felt by downstream communities. We argue that there is a need to expand the canon of EJ scholarship with a focus on justice in a watershed frame. We draw on both community science data and research as well as a collaboration with the Bronx River Alliance, an environmental and community organization, to emphasize the importance of public engagement in defining and solving environmental injustices.

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