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Let's Talk Environmental Justice

By Kaeley Sterkel

What is Environmental Justice?

This Movement has given a broader perspective of the environment, instead of zeroing in on conservation and preservation of our natural resources it is defined as “Where we live, work, play, learn and pray.” With this in mind, it reaches all levels of communities and promotes environmental, economic, and social justice by acknowledging the link between underprivileged communities and the demand for a safe, clean community and workplace. This name was tokened in the late 1950s after the federal government was discarding bulk amounts of hazardous waste sites within African American communities. Environmental justice will be recognized when all people are confident that their community and natural environment is safe and productive.

What are the Principles of Environmental Justice?

  1. Demands that public policy be based on a mutual respect and justice for all people, from discrimination or bias.

  2. Requires the right to ethical, balanced, and respected uses of land and renewable sources for the interest of a sustainable planet for all living things.

  3. Upholds everyone’s fundamental right to political, economic, cultural, and environmental opportunities for all people.

  4. Demands the right to contribute as equal partners of every level of decision making through assessment, planning, implementing, and enforcing

  5. The call for educating the present and future generations which emphasizes social and environmental issues to be treated equal

Examples of Environmental Justice

For those who are unfamiliar with the flint water crisis, in 2014 the city of Flint Michigan switched their city drinking water to the Flint River to be more cost effective. There was no testing of water quality and health issues being done by the EPA to support the switch, because of this neglect the people of flint were getting sick. People are still having to deal with the side effects to this day. A similar problem happened in DC a few years later and the moment the government caught wind of an environmental disaster they cleaned it up, while the people of Flint were still unable to obtain clean water with no support from the government. Flint has historically been an underprivileged community and the city that was dealt with in DC was a thriving one.

What is being done?

There is a demand for laws to be passed that will address environmental justice concerns, the EPA’s activities include

  • Setting standards for health regulations

  • Permitting faculties

  • Making grants available to all levels of income

  • Laws taking into consideration public health, cumulative impacts, social cost, and welfare impacts

There is now a movement to give these communities who have been relatively unheard and unseen by the government and is now giving them a voice. There is always the opportunity to donate to these different communities and contact your local county or state government about these issues to keep it on their minds. From the support of outsiders there has been a noticeable difference in underprivileged communities with their parks and environmental struggles.

What can you do today that could change a community in your county?

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