We all have an idea of what environmental justice is.
It starts with the belief that we should all have air to breathe free of air pollution, water to drink that is free of contaminants, and land to live on with green and pleasant natural things.
The reality, however, is that access to these things very much depends on where we are born, where we live, where we learn, and where we work.
People’s socioeconomic status can have a huge impact on whether they are able to access environmental justice or not.
What Is Environmental Justice And Why Does It Matter?
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) says that environmental justice is “the fair and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of laws, regulations, and policies”.
Their stated goal is to promote environmental justice for all peoples and communities. Environmental justice calls for an equal degree of protection from hazards by the means of environmental justice initiatives and environmental equity.
The Environmental Justice Movement
The environmental justice movement aims to address environmental justice social and environmental issues at the local level.
Thus, environmental justice communities such as the one which arose in Warren Country, North Carolina when the state government began to dump soil laced with PCBs (toxic materials) into the locality destroying environmental health and creating environmental hazards, are the basis of the movement.
More than 500 people participated in protests demanding that the principles of environmental justice be served. Sadly, they were ultimately unsuccessful but the people of Warren Country did not struggle entirely in vain, their actions sparked a national movement and saw that environmental justice protects many other communities today.
Examples Of Environmental Injustice
Environmental justice requires that we all have access to fair treatment when it comes to environmental quality and while federal agencies, by and large, are committed to this principle, many businesses are not.
Thus, public health and local environmental justice principles are often compromised when companies decide to pollute the environment and go against the wishes and needs of the local community.
These injustices can vary from community to community, so the most common environmental injustice for Latino laboring communities, for example, is over-exposure to pesticides that are used in the fields.
Whereas many people in Arizona are negatively affected by the uranium mining that goes on in the state.
Are Environmental Laws The Answer?
To some extent, the law is an important component of securing environmental justice but it is not the only answer.
In many cases, the actions of corporations to the detriment of the environment are already illegal but enforcement is often lax to non-existent and the penalties for infringement are often trivial.
It can be cheaper and more convenient for a company to simply ignore the law and continue with their polluting ways and simply pay any fines that they accrue along the way.
Many environmental justice advocates say that environmental justice demands that local communities be empowered to take their own actions on behalf of present and future generations and that natural resources and cultural integrity are often best preserved by direct action where communities are seen as equal partners in the decision making process.
What Is The Main Goal Of Environmental Justice?
The main goal of this movement is to ensure that diverse cultural perspectives are brought to the table and that environmental policy and actions are taken with the consent of a community rather than inflicted on that community.
The concept of environmental justice also seeks to minimize environmental racism which is the idea that certain communities have been systematically discriminated against in the way that their environment has been managed thus far.
What Are The Benefits Of Environmental Justice?
It ought to be obvious but a world in which we all breathe clean air, drink clean water, and can play and relax in nature is likely to be a much more harmonious one.
And things such as climate change become less likely to energy as major issues when all our communities have equal access to human rights and can prevent environmental injustices from taking place.
Environmental justice can help to prevent ecological destruction and ensure that everyone on the planet benefits from a cleaner, kinder world. There may be nothing more important on Earth than that.