Thursday, March 17, 2016

Environmental Justice: People Do Not Feel the Effects of Environmental Disasters Equally

By now, many of you are aware of the environmental issues that impact our planet such as global warming or the mismanagement of landfills. From time to time, you may have come across the term "environmental justice". At face value, one might assume that it deals with environmental protection laws. That is true, but the concept is much deeper than that. The United States Environmental Protection define environmental justice as the following:

"Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. EPA has this goal for all communities and persons across this Nation. It will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work."

Upon reading this definition, you may wonder how socioeconomic status fits into environmentalism; after all, global warming impacts the entire planet.  However, certain people are disproportionately more affected by environmental disasters than others. If you live in an affluent, white-majority area of the country, notice how clean and well managed your local environment is. Conversely, in impoverished, black or Hispanic-majority areas, you may find landfills or factories nearby. The conditions that the poor face profoundly impact their ability to work, their health, and many other facets of their lives.

All people should have the right to clean air, drinking water, and safe living areas regardless of their socioeconomic status. Even though we may not be affected by these issues, we can learn how to help mitigate them and to help others. Here are some links for more information:

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