As I’m sure you know, our environment is not always maintained as well as it should be (or if you don’t, welcome to reality). There are many environmental impacts that affect us in our every day lives, which put our health at risk. I’m hoping, since you are taking the time to read this blog, you know that we should, and must, be more conscience of these impacts and make efforts to improve them. However, did you know these risks are unequally shared across race and class? Some of you may be asking yourselves now, “What do you mean, unequally shared?” or “What does race or class have to do with anything”. These are the questions I hope to answer for you. I also hope to give you a better understanding of the injustices that often get looked over and are not always brought to light by the media and/or politicians (which, face it, that’s where most of us get our news whether we like it or not).
- Things like hazardous plants, pollution, and contamination are disproportionately located in black and poor communities.
- This spawned an area of research and social movement aimed at addressing these inequities: Environmental Justice.
- It advocates that all people and communities, regardless of their race or class status, are entitled to a healthy environment, as well as equal protection of environmental laws and regulations.
- Click here for the 17 guiding principles of environmental justice!
- There are two main debates with environmental justice: race vs. class and the chicken and the egg.
“Race vs. Class Debate”
- Debates whether race or class is a better predictor of “environmental bads”.
- Answering this debate is complicated because race and class connected.
- Poor racially concentrated communities are the best predictors.
- This occurs wherever people have the least amount of power, called “the path of least resistance”.
- Occurs in poor black communities, as well as poor white communities.
- This rarely occurs in rich white communities.
“The Chicken and The Egg”
- Debates whether the “environmental bad” or the people came first into a community.
- This assumes only one form of discrimination: the environmental bad moving in.
- If people move into a contaminated community, it is discrimination too because those of a lower socioeconomic status are often forced into them.
- NIMBY (“not in my backyard”) is the act of rich white folks opposing environmental bads.
- NIMBY acts concentrate these into marginalized communities!
I can’t stress to you enough how difficult it is for me to provide an introduction of environmental justice, alongside the two debates, in such a short blog! There are so many components to environmental justice that warrant their own blogs! In the coming months I plan on discussing many of these with you because it is a highly important topic to discuss, as well as a crucial component to environmentalism. In the mean time, I encourage each and every one of you to think about something in a community that negatively impacts the environment (power plant, factory etc.) around you. Then, ask yourself, where are these located?
Until next time!