The causes of the environmental justice movement lie in the deep racial inequality that pervaded the America of the 1960s and is still rearing its head today, 60 years later. The movement is addressing the burden of disadvantages as well as the lack of advantages and amenities that black and poor communities throughout the United States have to endure.
Nobody wants a toxic waste facility in their backyard. However, disadvantaged communities even today often lack the political and legal power to fight the unjust distribution of toxic sites throughout the country. The environmental justice movement is utilizing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in order to address this injustice and fight for environmental equality regardless of race, color, or national identity.
Causes of Environmental Injustice
Even today, environmental injustice is not a thing of the past. There are several causes that contribute to the injustice suffered by minority communities, including:
- Lack of cheap land for industrial facilities or toxic waste sites.
- Lack of political power and representation of minority communities.
- The intentional neglect of minority and poor communities.
- State or federal agencies failing to enforce environmental laws and regulations.
- The need to dispose of toxic materials in urban areas.
- Lack of monitoring of pollutants affecting air, soil, and water.
However, the environmental justice movement does not concern itself exclusively with the quality of our air, water, and soil, but is also looking at other environmental factors that may be unequally distributed amongst communities. Black, minority, and poor communities can face several disadvantages in their living environments such as:
- Inadequate access to healthy food
- Inadequate public transportation or road links
- Older and unsafe homes
- Playgrounds with lead paint
- No access to piped water
- Inadequate access to healthcare
- Lack of cultural institutions such as libraries and museums
There can be many other ways in which certain communities suffer from environmental injustice and racism. Such blatant inequalities contributed to the formation of the environmental justice movement.
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is generally responsible for all matters to do with the environment, and this includes environmental justice. In particular, the Office of Environmental Justice, an arm of the EPA, is tasked with delivering the promise to “protect [the] environment and public health in minority, low-income, tribal and other vulnerable communities by integrating environmental justice in all programs, policies, and activities.”
Unfortunately, the EPA is in some ways comparable to a toothless tiger when it comes to fighting for environmental justice, according to the Center for Public Integrity. The agency has been accused of being unresponsive to complaints, particularly those filed under the Civil Rights Act, and rejecting certain communities’ appeals for help.
In 2017, the United States, led by EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement. The agreement was drawn up between a number of nations in order to cut greenhouse emissions in an effort to stem global warming. Climate change can also affect minority communities disproportionately for many reasons.
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Helping the Cause
Unfortunately, even though the environmental justice movement has been around for decades, it seems that we still have a long way to go in order to get justice for all. All communities deserve to share the advantages of our environmental surroundings, such as clean air, clean water, and unpolluted soil. It should be in all our best interests to ensure that nobody has to suffer environmental hazards and toxic substances at close proximity, or in their drinking water and food.
The cause of the environmental justice movement is as apparent now as it was 60 years ago. We all have a responsibility to fight environmental injustice. If some communities have the power and political backing to be able to say “not in my back yard,” so should others. Communities of color and lower socioeconomic status must have support to claim their power by:
- Demanding a seat at the table to participate in local decisions
- Holding elected officials accountable for their failures
- Helping those directly impacted by toxic environments
- Getting involved and organized into groups of local activists
It is up to all of us to address environmental injustice as well as environmental issues. We only have one planet, and we are all in this together. Today, perhaps your neighbor or the community down the street is suffering, but tomorrow it could be you. Environmental destruction will eventually impact all of us, and we all have a role to play in fighting environmental hazards.
Ben Crump Law, PLLC Fights for Environmental Justice
If you or your loved ones suffered health problems due to environmental injustice or your community has been adversely affected, you could have legal recourse and should speak to an environmental justice lawyer.
Nobody should suffer from the adverse effects on health as well as the reduced life quality that living in a toxic environment can cause, no matter what their financial background or the color of their skin. We will fight for your right to environmental justice.
Contact Ben Crump Law, PLLC today and let one of our team members advise you on your next best steps in a free consultation at (800) 959-1444.