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 environment. 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.
Definition of Environmental Justice
Environmental justice is the concept that everyone should have a say in how the environment is managed and protecting 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 community groups.
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 try to change how decisions are made about the environment and their communities.
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 natural resources and communities that face legal pressure from both governments and community groups to change their operations. These actions have been successful at changing regulations and forcing companies to change their operations. Many of these groups are beginning to focus on proactive measures to prevent future issues.
Principles of Environmental Justice
According to CalRecycle, the principles of environmental justice are to:
- Increase environmental 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 and legislators are seeing the importance of taking action to protect communities and stopping the widespread construction of the environment by corporations that appeared to only be motivated by turning a profit. As these efforts continue, community groups are finding ways of taking legal action to improve protections for their communities and to prevent health risks.
Environmental Justice Law
Environmental justice law is a set of laws enacted to protect the environment and ensure that every group is represented in decisions that can impact the environment. 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 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 residence 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 residence of the city in a more inclusive way.
Recovering a Financial Award
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 for the lawsuit. They can look at what compensation occurred in similar, prior cases to use as a precedent.
Know Your Rights
When it comes to environmental injustice and environmental racism, you have the right to enjoy the same access and benefits as everyone else. In the event that these rights are infringed, you can take legal action to hold the other party accountable. The actual type of legal action and next steps vary based on the specifics of your case and your overall goals.
Contact Ben Crump Law, PLLC Today
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 at (800) 959-1444. Our team is happy to answer any questions that you may have. You can make a more informed legal decision after getting the answers that you need.