While globalization has benefited humanity in some ways, it has also caused pollution, damaged ecosystems, contributed to climate change, and disproportionately harmed impoverished people and communities of color. Globalization affects environmental justice by creating bigger issues that activists, politicians, and ordinary citizens must work together to confront.
Globalization’s Effect on Pollution
In many areas, people have suffered serious environmental harm because of globalization. According to Harvard Business School, one way that globalization impacts the environment is through pollution caused by increased transportation of goods from one country to another. Quote:
“The farther a product travels, the more fuel is consumed, and a greater level of greenhouse gas emissions is produced. These emissions contribute to pollution, climate change, and ocean acidification around the world and have been shown to significantly impact biodiversity.”
Pollution has left people in some areas with limited access to water, and the water they have access to may contain pollutants that endanger their health. Plastic waste has become a serious problem in many parts of the world, with plastic containers filling bodies of water and washing up on beaches.
These changes have dramatically affected the environment, fish, animals, and plants. In some cases, populations of animals and fish have dramatically declined, which has devastated local economies. Small pieces of plastic in the water supply also pose risks to people, because the chemicals in plastic can harm human health.
The growth of manufacturing has led to widespread air pollution. In some cities, the sky is so thick with pollution that it is difficult for people to breathe when they walk down the street. Poor air quality can cause asthma and other respiratory problems that can have dangerous consequences, especially for children, the elderly, and individuals with various medical conditions.
Pollution from manufacturing and other sources can also impact soil quality. If soil becomes contaminated with pollutants, crops can also become contaminated. People who consume those crops may later develop cancer and other illnesses.
In some cases, soil that has been contaminated is unsuitable for agriculture. That means that farmers must look for new places to grow crops, figure out how to get by with less income from farming, or look for another way to support their families.
Climate Change and Globalization
The burning of fossil fuels has led to a sharp increase in levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and contributed to climate change. People who live in urban and coastal areas and those who depend on fishing are disproportionately affected. Weather-related disasters that are linked to climate change also disproportionately impact those groups.
Climate change has led to rising sea levels that have threatened coastal communities. In some cases, people have been forced to abandon areas that they and their families have called home for generations and relocate to higher ground to live in relative safety.
Around the world, groups who have suffered from climate change are disproportionately people of color. Those communities were often already struggling to deal with environmental degradation and a variety of health problems.
In addition to increasing greenhouse gas emissions, globalization has caused many animals’ natural habitats to fall victim to increased farming, ranching, fishing, and other economic activities. The more forests are cut down and the more waterways are overfished, the poorer and unhealthier our environment becomes.
How Globalization Can Perpetuate Inequality
Globalization, economic changes, and environmental laws and regulations have contributed to inequitable distributions of environmental hazards, such as landfills and chemical plants, and environmental amenities, such as protected bodies of water and open spaces.
Impoverished communities, developing countries, and communities of color have disproportionately suffered the effects of climate change, deforestation, depletion of the ozone layer, and declines in biodiversity. People in those places generally do not have adequate resources to address the effects of environmental change.
Changes to their environments and ways of life can slow or halt their development efforts and can lead to entrenched socioeconomic inequality.
The Future of Globalization and Environmental Justice
As Harvard Business School notes, it is not reasonable or possible to reverse globalization. Even if it were possible, we would still be left to deal with the impact it has already made on our communities, our health, and our planet.
Instead, environmental justice advocates must turn their attention to improving the world that globalization has created for us. There are many ways to advocate for environmental justice, no matter who you are or where you live, including:
- Reading about environmental issues of interest to you and selecting one or two to devote your attention
- Banding together with others in your community who care about the same issues
- Educating people in your community about their rights and options when faced with environmental injustice
- Supporting and voting for political candidates who will fight for your right to live in a safe environment
If you have personally been impacted by an environmental injustice issue, you can hire an attorney to represent you. They can decide if you are eligible for special benefits, to file a lawsuit, or to join a class action lawsuit.
Legal Help for Communities Suffering the Effects of Globalization
Globalization has led to improvements in communication and has made people around the world more interconnected than ever, but it has been destructive in other ways.
Globalization has harmed ecosystems, many of which were already fragile. Pollution and climate change have caused radical changes in landscapes that have affected people, animals, and plants that live in those areas. Those changes have devastated economies and dramatically disrupted people’s lives.
Ben Crump Law, PLLC is committed to pursuing environmental justice. We understand the complex factors associated with globalization and the myriad ways they can impact communities around the globe. We recognize that the most vulnerable people are often those who suffer the most and see little or no benefit.
Our team has used litigation to seek justice on behalf of people who have been devastated by globalization and environmental injustice. Contact us today to learn how we may be able to help people in your community.