You can advocate for environmental justice by educating yourself and others about conditions around you and laws that are on the books or under consideration. You can also partner with like-minded people to fight discrimination and stand up for equity.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “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.” We can achieve this goal in a number of ways.
Learn How Environmental Laws Affect Vulnerable Populations
Speak with people who are currently dealing with the effects of environmental injustice. Ask about the struggles they face on a daily basis. Discuss how environmental conditions in their neighborhoods have impacted their health and their family members.
Learn about barriers that contribute to environmental injustice. People often move to environmentally degraded areas or are unable to leave due to poverty. Discuss ways that you and other community members can provide opportunities for people struggling to get by. They may include education, job training programs, and opportunities for young people.
Encourage Those Impacted by Environmental Injustice To Speak Out
It is easy for people to be disengaged when stories about environmental injustice are presented in abstract terms, but it is harder to ignore a compelling personal story. Encourage individuals who have suffered the effects of environmental injustice to share their stories online and with local and state news outlets.
Hearing firsthand accounts from people caught in a cycle of poverty and who have suffered devastating health problems because of where they live can help others truly understand issues related to environmental injustice. Associating those ideas with a human face can spur people to take action.
Understand How Your Government Makes Decisions About Environmental Justice
Learn about laws and government policies already in effect in your community. Conduct research to understand how land use decisions are made and which communities are most impacted by facilities such as toxic waste storage sites and landfills.
Follow your state and local governments’ websites and news coverage so you will be aware of laws and policies under consideration. Investigate their potential implications for low-income people and communities of color.
Protest Against Unjust Environmental Policies
If you believe that a proposal would have a disproportionately negative impact on vulnerable populations, speak up. Communicate with your family members, friends, and neighbors. Educate them and encourage them to fight against environmental injustice.
Voice your concerns in letters to elected officials, in community meetings, in the local newspaper, and online. Use the power of social media to reach out to others in your city or town and beyond. Urge them to get involved in the fight for environmental equity in whatever way they can. That may mean staging or participating in a protest, writing letters to local leaders, attending government meetings, or donating money to support the cause.
Join Forces With Other Advocates Who Share Your Views and Goals
Collaborate with others to work toward shared goals. Environmental justice groups exist all over the United States. Some are large national or statewide organizations, while others are small groups dedicated to supporting environmental equity in their local communities. In many cases, small groups band together to support each other on issues that affect large numbers of people.
You can find organizations dedicated to causes you believe in by conducting online research and speaking with others in your community who share your values. One example is joining a local chapter of the Sierra Club.
Help People Who Are Directly Impacted Advocate for Themselves
Environmental injustice and racism have been able to occur and continue to occur because the people most affected often do not have a voice. They are typically not represented at government meetings and on the boards of corporations that make decisions that impact their communities.
Encourage people directly impacted by environmental injustice to speak up at government meetings and to run for office themselves. Urge corporations to diversify their leadership and to carefully consider how decisions they make can impact people who are most vulnerable because of their race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.
Increasing democratic participation in communities most affected by environmental injustice is important. You can help people in low-income and minority communities register to vote if they have not already. Encourage them to be informed and to participate in the electoral process. Work to address barriers that may keep people from voting, such as lack of transportation to polling places.
Camp Lejeune: A Case Study in Environmental Injustice
You can find acts of environmental injustice all across the United States. One notorious example is the water supply contamination at Camp Lejeune installations in North Carolina. For over 30 years—from 1953 to 1987—Marines stationed there were exposed to dangerous chemicals through polluted water.
Since then, many impacted Marines and their families have sought justice by requesting healthcare benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Though this system is imperfect, and many veterans are unjustly denied benefits, environmental justice lawyers can help them appeal negative decisions and receive fair benefits.
You can advocate for veterans impacted by the Camp Lejeune contamination in several ways:
- Read and review research concerning Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water, such as “Contaminated Drinking Water at Camp Lejeune” from the National Academies
- Inform any impacted veterans you know about their options for seeking benefits or joining a class action lawsuit
- Listen attentively when they talk to you about their experiences with environmental injustice
- Promote social and environmental justice policies and laws that protect local water supplies, and that would prevent a catastrophe like this from ever happening again
- Vote for local, state, and federal politicians who are committed to protecting water supplies on Marine bases and throughout the country
Seek Legal Help in the Fight for Environmental Justice
Environmental injustice is a far-reaching and deeply entrenched problem affecting communities throughout the United States. To tackle the problem and make headway, it is important for people to understand what is going on around them, communicate and coordinate with each other, and work together to stand up against discriminatory policies.
Ben Crump Law, PLLC represents those negatively affected by environmental injustice. We fight on behalf of those who are disadvantaged and who have suffered the effects of discriminatory policies they did not have a say in creating and implementing.
If you or members of your community have been impacted by environmental injustice, we may be able to file a lawsuit on your behalf. Call Ben Crump Law, PLLC today to speak with a member of our staff about how we can help you fight for environmental justice.