What Is Environmental Justice?
Environmental justice is a facet of broader social justice movements. It considers how individual communities can be overburdened with a disproportionate amount of environmentally negative facilities or activities in their area compared to other, less vulnerable communities. Achieving environmental justice looks like “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,” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Various concepts further help define which communities are being impacted. The terms environmental racism and classism, for example, specifically address environmental injustices that disproportionately affect someone because of their skin color or lower-income status, respectively.

What Are Some Examples of Environmental Injustice?
Environmental injustice doesn’t look like just one thing across communities. It can be a single, significant source of pollution — like plastic pollution — or it can be a series of sources whose harmful effects accumulate over time.

That is the case for the Louisiana community living in what is known as “Cancer Alley,” who are suing their local government for approving multiple polluting petrochemical facilities in two Black districts.

It can also look like poor neighborhoods being forced to live with poor air quality from adjacent industrial activities, like Black residents of Washington, DC. An article from DCist, a local news outlet, describes the findings of a recent research paper that shows how neighborhoods with mostly Black residents haven’t seen the same rise in air quality that others have recorded.

In those neighborhoods, according to the article, “there are more than four times as many pollution-related premature deaths compared to wealthy neighborhoods.”

It can also look like communities in the same city having unequal access to lush parks and clean waterways. In Chicago, a predominantly Latino neighborhood called Little Village has struggled with a similar problem for years, enjoying the least amount of green space per capita in the city while being forced to live with diesel trucks traveling back and forth from a retail distribution site. The organization behind the Goldman Environmental Prize highlighted one resident leading the fight to make change and called Little Village a “textbook case study for environmental justice.”

Read the full article about environmental justice by Bridget Reed Morawski at EcoWatch.