The principles of environmental justice focus on the core beliefs and structures around protecting the environment and giving people control over what happens to their communities.
In an attempt to codify these principles, they were outlined at the 1991 First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit. There are 17 principles in total. Other groups have summarized these principles into a few points that make them easier to understand and apply. The establishment of these principles gave greater legitimacy to the environmental justice movement.
Understanding the principles of environmental justice is important. It highlights the rights that every American citizen should possess. These principles also outline clear environmental justice objectives.
The Definition of Environmental Justice
Environmental justice is the concept that everyone should have a say in how the environment is managed and protects their communities. The idea of environmental justice grew out of the consistent and widespread damage caused by the decisions of a few people that affected large communities.
Historically, minority groups and low socioeconomic groups have largely been kept out of the decision-making process, leading to environmental damage that threatens their communities. To combat this, many of those communities have banded together to make decisions about the environment and their living spaces. Their efforts have had a range of environmental justice effects.
The most effective method of cultivating change in environmental justice has been to take legal action against the entities that are causing the damage. For example, companies that pollute ecological resources and communities may face legal pressure from both governments and community groups to change their operations. These actions have changed regulations and forced companies to change their methods. Many of these groups are beginning to focus on proactive measures to prevent future issues.
The Principles of Environmental Justice
The principles of environmental justice are to:
- Increase ecological protection and safety within disadvantaged communities.
- Expand cultural awareness and address potential language barriers.
- Promote environmental education.
- Provide additional opportunities for everyone to participate in the decision-making process, regardless of race or socioeconomic status.
There have been major strides toward creating environmental justice across the country. Government agencies are seeing the importance of taking action to protect communities and stopping the widespread destruction of the environment from profit-driven corporations.
As these efforts continue, community groups are finding ways of taking legal action to improve protections and prevent health risks.
Environmental Justice Law Seeks To Protect Disadvantaged Communities
Environmental justice law is a set of laws enacted to protect the environment and ensure that every group has representation. In recent decades, legal action has changed how states protect the rights of people, involving them in these decisions. In many cases, it is the direct result of individuals or groups taking legal action against larger entities.
By creating widespread social change, their actions have led to increased regulations by state and federal government agencies to keep companies and government representatives from alienating specific groups from community development projects. This is in everyone’s best interest, including the companies and decision-makers responsible for much of the environmental injustice.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), healthy families are better workers and students who can make more significant contributions to the communities where they live. Having a healthier community impacts everyone in a positive way.
Environmental Injustices in Our Country: A Violation of Certain Principles
A leading example of environmental injustice is the Flint, Michigan, case. A company used faulty pipes to create water and sewer systems throughout the city. As those pipes broke down prematurely, they contaminated much of the drinking water with lead. The residents of Flint had struggled to hold that company accountable because of being alienated from legal and government processes.
Many people have stood up for the residents of Flint, including well-known celebrities and national legal associations. Slowly, they are cultivating change that will push the government of Flint to take action and fix the problem, while including the residents of the city in a more inclusive way.
The Camp Lejeune Case Study
Between August 1953 and December 1987, service members stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina were exposed to dangerous chemicals through contaminated drinking water. The contaminants present caused many health conditions, including:
- Multiple myeloma
- Parkinson’s disease
- Infertility and miscarriage
- Neurobehavioral effects
- Birth defects, such as spina bifida
This event is similar to what occurred in Flint, Michigan. Unbeknownst to them, the service members at Camp Lejeune had a great risk of developing health complications due to the water supply.
Yet, those stationed at Camp Lejeune could soon pursue environmental justice. Recent legislation could permit affected service members to file lawsuits against the U.S. government. An environmental justice lawyer can explain the specifics of this legislation to you. They can advise you on the status of your case and assess your situation.
Compensation in an Environmental Justice Case
The types of compensation that come from an environmental injustice case vary based on the circumstances of what happened, who is responsible, and who is involved in the case. Your environmental justice lawyer can give you some additional guidance on what you can expect in terms of compensation (if that is your end goal). They can look at what compensation occurred in similar, prior cases to use as a precedent.
Know Your Environmental Rights
When it comes to environmental injustice and environmental racism, you have the right to enjoy the same access and benefits as everyone else. If another party violates those rights, you can take legal action. The actual type of legal action and next steps vary based on the specifics of your case and your overall goals.
Contact an Environmental Justice Lawyer
If you have any questions about the principles of environmental justice and how it impacts your potential environmental injustice case, call Ben Crump Law, PLLC. Our team is happy to answer any questions that you may have, including those relevant to ongoing events, like Camp Lejeune. You can make informed legal decisions after getting the answers that you need.