The Conclusion reintroduces the puzzle that began the book: Why do so many people who are affected by industry-produced environmental hazards and toxics not participate in movements to bring about environmental justice and industry accountability? This final chapter summarizes the major findings presented in the previous chapters and then connects these findings back to social movement theory and larger questions about the importance of “local identity” to the ultimate success or failure of a social movement. The chapter suggests that the changing face of the coalfield movement may be deterring potential local supporters, as the coal industry has aggressively and opportunistically endeavored to capitalize on an “insider-outsider” dichotomy, effectively challenging the collective identity of the movement so that many now view it as a movement of outsiders, rather than a local struggle. This finding poses a dilemma, as the influx of non-locals has brought resources and attention to the coal-industry-related environmental injustices in Central Appalachia, leading to many improvements. However, as the chapter argues, if environmental justice movements lose their local identities (and constituencies), they may also lose their effectiveness in engendering change, for their credibility is tied to the claims of injustice levied by local people.
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