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Environmental and Climate Justice

All life is interconnected. From the forest to the sea to humanity itself, each thread of being is woven into a single fabric of existence. We embrace nature’s beauty and are in awe of its power. We care for our environment so that it may sustain life for generations to come. We collaborate because it is only with the knowledge and experience of these communities effected that equitable and sustainable change can happen. Creating a sustainable way of life is central to a just and compassionate world.

We have a moral, ethical, and survival imperative to learn about climate change / global warming, and to act appropriately and decisively.  We must not have future generations say, of us: "They refused to learn" or "they knew but did not act."

We do this in partnership with communities most impacted by environmental and climate destruction, who are often marginalized in the larger culture. Theses communities are impacted hardest and often have the fewest resources to recover.

Environmental equity is simply redistribution of environmental harms while, environmental justice seeks to abolish them

Environmental Justice occurs when:

  • cultural norms and values, rules, regulations, behaviors, policies, and decisions support sustainability

  • all people can be confident that their community and natural environment is safe and productive

  • all people can realize their highest potential, without interruption by environmental racism or inequity

Environmental Racism

Environmental racism occurs within marginalized racial minority communities when they are subjected to:

  • disproportionate exposure of pollutants

  • the denial of access to sources of ecological benefits (such as clean air, water, and natural resources

  • disproportional development, implementation, or enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies that force minority and marginalized communities to struggle to improve and maintain a clean and healthful environment, especially for those who have traditionally lived, worked and played closest to the sources of pollution

  • 134 million U.S. residents living with the danger or “vulnerability” zones of 3,433 chemical facilities, and the 3.8 million living with the “fenceline” zones closest to potential harm, with the least time to react in the event of a catastrophe.

    • The percentage of Blacks in the fenceline zones is 75% greater than for the U.S. as a whole,

    • The percentage of Latinos in the fenceline zones is 60% greater than for the U.S. as a whole.

  • Low-Income, Black, And Latino Americans Face Highest Risk Of Chemical Spills

  • People of color make up the majority of those living in neighborhoods located within 1.8 miles of the nation's hazardous waste facilities. As a whole, racial disparities of color exist in 9 out of 10 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regions.

  • Existing laws and land-use controls have not been adequately applied in order to reduce health risks for those living in or near toxic "hot spots."

  • African Americans are 79% more likely than whites to live in neighborhoods where industrial pollution is suspected of causing the greatest health dangers.

  • A Commission for Racial Justice study found that three of the five largest waste facilities dealing with hazardous materials in the United States are located in poor black communities. This study also showed that three out of every five African American and Latinos live in areas near toxic waste sites, as well as live in areas where the levels of poverty are well above the national average.

  •  Native Americans also experience environmental racism in their communities. Many Native Americans who live in communities where most people are below poverty level face some of the worst toxic pollution problems in the country.

    • 50% of all Native Americans live in communities with an uncontrolled toxic waste site.

  • Living near toxic waste facilities and living in low income housing affects almost every aspect of the community's lives. The food people eat, the water they drink, and the air they breathe are all affected by these facilities. Homes, schools, and the workplace are deemed unsafe because of environmental hazards in the buildings, which remain widely under cared for and outdated.

  • Hispanics faced rates of chlorine exposure that are more than double those of whites. Chronic chlorine inhalation is known for degrading cardiac function.

  •  black people are exposed to about 1.5 times more particulate matter than white people

  • Hispanics had about 1.2 times more particulate matter exposure of non-Hispanic whites

  • people in poverty had about 1.3 times more particulate matter exposure than people above poverty. Interestingly

  •  the magnitude of emissions from individual factories appears to be higher in minority neighborhoods

  • Studies have shown that children of color who live in poor areas are more likely to:

    • attend schools filled with asbestos

    • live in homes with peeling lead paint

    • play in parks that are contaminated

    • are 9 X's more likely than economically advantaged children to be exposed to lead levels so high they can cause severe learning disabilities or other neurological disorders

    • 96% of African American children who live in inner cities have unsafe amounts of lead in their blood

    • The  budget of the EPA's Office of Environmental Justice  continues to be cut

  • Environmental racism refers to the institutional rules, regulations, policies or government and/or corporate decisions that:

    • deliberately target certain communities for locally undesirable land uses

    • lax enforcement of zoning and environmental laws, resulting in minority communities being disproportionately exposed to toxic and hazardous waste

  • Environmental racism is caused by:

    • intentional neglect

    • the alleged need for a receptacle for pollutants in urban areas

    • a lack of institutional power

    • low land values of people of color

    • the destruction and taking of our lands and communities

 

 

Principles of Environmental Justice

 

 

  • promote economic alternatives which would contribute to the development of environmentally safe livelihoods; and, to secure political, economic and cultural liberation

  • affirms the sacredness of Mother Earth, ecological unity and the interdependence of all species, and the right to be free from ecological destruction.

  • public policy be based on mutual respect and justice for all peoples, free from any form of discrimination or bias.

  • ethical, balanced and responsible uses of land and renewable resources in the interest of a sustainable planet for humans and other living things.

  •  universal protection from nuclear testing, extraction, production and disposal of toxic/hazardous wastes and poisons and nuclear testing that threaten the fundamental right to clean air, land, water, and food.

  • affirms the fundamental right to political, economic, cultural and environmental self-determination of all peoples.

  • demands the cessation of the production of all toxins, hazardous wastes, and radioactive materials

  • all past and current producers of  toxins, hazardous wastes, and radioactive materials be held strictly accountable to the people for detoxification and the containment at the point of production.

  • the right of all stakeholders and minority communities to participate as equal partners at every level of decision-making, including needs assessment, planning, implementation, enforcement and evaluation.

  • the right of all workers to a safe and healthy work environment without being forced to choose between an unsafe livelihood and unemployment

  • affirms the right of those who work at home to be free from environmental hazards.

  • protects the right of victims of environmental injustice to receive full compensation and reparations for damages as well as quality health care.

  • governmental acts of environmental injustice are a violation of international law, the Universal Declaration On Human Rights, and the United Nations Convention on Genocide.

  • affirms the need for urban and rural ecological policies to clean up and rebuild our cities and rural areas in balance with nature, honoring the cultural integrity of all communities, and provided fair access for all to the full range of resources.

  • calls for the strict enforcement of principles of informed consent,

  • calls for the halt to the testing of experimental reproductive and medical procedures and vaccinations on people of color.

  •  opposes destructive operations of multi-national corporations.

  • opposes military occupation, repression and exploitation of lands, peoples and cultures, and other life forms.

  • calls for the education which emphasizes social and environmental issues, with an appreciation of diverse cultural perspectives.

  • requires that we, as individuals, make personal and consumer choices to consume as little of Mother Earth’s resources and to produce as little waste as possible; and make the conscious decision to challenge and reprioritize our lifestyles to ensure the health of the natural world for present and future generations.

(Modified from Green Action)
 

Action Steps

  • Green Sanctuary Program
    Become a certified Green Sanctuary and live out this commitment through spiritual connection, education, sustainable living, and social justice.

  • Climate Justice
    Be in partnership with climate and environmental  justice activists and coalition partners who can provide valuable tools for education, advocacy, collaboration, and organizing.

  • Ethical Eating
    Educate our communities to recognize the moral consequences of our food choices and pay attention to the impact of our involvement in the food system.

  • Divestment and Socially-Responsible Investment
     Commit your financial investments to environmental justice. Called on your denomination, our congregations, and your individual members to engage with how investments can be socially responsible.