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.”
The definition of environmental justice emphasizes the concepts of “fair treatment” and “meaningful involvement.” The point of including “fair treatment” is to prevent a group of people from being burdened by a share of disproportionate, negative environmental consequences. These negative environmental consequences can result from commercial, industrial and governmental operations or policies. The goal of including “meaningful involvement” is to allow people to have a voice in decisions about activities that may affect their surrounding environment and/or health. Therefore, community concerns will be considered in the decision making process and decision makers will seek out the approval of the involved communities.
- The environmental justice movement began in tandem with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. The correlation between the Civil Rights Movement and environmental justice movement was created because primarily people of color suffered the most from the lack of environmental protection. The environmental justice movement started because these people of color, and those who were poor, sought out to address the inequity of environmental protection in their communities.
- One of the first, recognized environmental justice events was on February 11th, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. The movement for environmental justice became known as the “Memphis Sanitation Strike” and was the first time African Americans had created a national group to fight an environmental justice they faced. The Memphis Sanitation Strike was even endorsed by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and within the event, participants advocated for better pay and working conditions for the garbage workers of Memphis, Tennessee.
- Since this initial environmental justice movement, United States History has been filled with other movements. You can explore these other acts of environmental justice on the link below, which is a timeline of environmental justice in the United States over the years.1https://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/learn-about-environmental-justice
- The Sierra Club: The Sierra Club is an environmental organization whose focus is to “defend everyone’s right to a healthy world”2https://www.sierraclub.org/about-sierra-club
- GreenPeace USA: GreenPeace is an independent environmental justice organization which engages in peaceful protests. They also “promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future”.3https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/about/
- EDF: The EDF is the Environmental Defense Fund which is one the large environmental organizations. Their mission is to “address today’s most urgent environmental challenges” 4https://www.edf.org/about
- EPA: The EPA is the Environmental Protection Agency which is a government run organization whose job is “to protect human health and the environment”.5https://www.epa.gov/aboutepa
- Policy Engagement: Policy action and engagement in Environmental justice issues is a large contributor to environmental justice. In order to make wide and effective change to enforce environmental justice values laws must be put in place. The policies that are implemented related to environmental justice address issues which surround environmental injustices, such as injustices which occur in nature as well as injustices involving disadvantaged communities.
- Values: The values of Environmental Justice are concerned with the protection of the basic rights of nature and humans. Furthermore it resists any form of discrimination and ensuring the health of all being on earth. According to EWG news and analysis “Environmental Justice requires that we, as individuals, make personal and consumer choices to consume as little of Mother Earth’s resources and to produce as little waste as possible; and make the conscious decision to challenge and reprioritize our lifestyles to insure the health of the natural world for present and future generations.”6https://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2007/10/17-principles-environmental-justice
The Trump Administration:
- The status of government engagement in environmental justice issues has decreased in recent years following the election of President Trump. Due to the decrease in priority of environmental justice issues government funding has decreased to important government environmental agencies, such as the EPA.
- Due to this environmental data which would ultimately come from the government has decreased which poses a threat for the environmental justice activists because they are not receiving the necessary datasets.
Environmental Justice Today:
- Today there are many active environmental justice events going on nationally. There are also many successful and valuable outcomes from environmental justice. But without proper government support it will be hard to efficiently overcome future environmental injustices.
How Much Have You Learned?
Has the election of President Trump helped or hurt environmental justice movements?
President trump has hurt environmental justice movements because he has cut funding to environmental agencies.
Which environmental group's motto is "defend everyone’s right to a healthy world"?
The values of environmental justice are concerned with protecting the rights of nature, as well as humans.
Policy Engagement is not important to environmental justice.
Which environmental agency is associated with the federal government?
- The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an organization that has the purpose to safeguard the Earth, including its people, animals, and natural systems. On the link provided below, the NRDC discusses environmental history in context of its history, success stories, and unsuccessful stories.
- The Sierra Club is an organization that has the purpose to explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places on Earth. A specific goal of the Sierra Club is to educate and incorporate humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment. On the link provided below, the Sierra Club discusses what environmental justice means to them as an organization and what they want to do to help the movement.
- GreenPeace USA is an independent organization which uses non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems. GreenPeace USA has the goal of creating a green, peaceful future and to ensure Earth’s ability to support life in all its diversity. On the link provided below, GreenPeace USA explores the concept of why race matters when talking about the environment. The correlation between the need for environmental justice and the race/income of the community is indisputable. Use the link to explore the topic.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a governmental organization that has the purpose to create standards and laws that promote the health of individuals and the environment. On the link provided below, the EPA discusses environmental justice in the context of the United States government and how the federal government views the importance of environmental justice.
- The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) is a federal agency that has the purpose of discovering how the environment affects people in order to promote healthier lives. On the link provided below, the NIEHS provides an explanation of environmental justice in a context suitable for children.
- Environmental justice thrives on community power. Therefore it is important when fighting for environmental justice to lift up the voices in the affected community. Provide opportunities for meaningful engagement and in determining how the policy will be shaped by the community.
- Litigation in environmental justice will work to ensure that local, state and federal environmental laws are administered fairly and without the influence of race or income. It is important to research and assess where new policy supports the environmental justice movement that is needed.
- Partnership is another important aspect of fighting for environmental justice. By mobilizing a broader support base, the more likely a policy change will happen at the local, state or federal level.
- In respect to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are many strategies that have proven to be helpful in fighting for environmental justice. These strategic elements include the four topics: policy development and dissemination, education and training, research and data collection, analysis, and utilization, research and services. By covering the various elements in context of the environmental injustice at hand, the change needed becomes more likely to be implemented. You can read more in depth about the various strategies within the strategic elements in the link provided below.
- Other sources to reference when designing your own environmental justice movement will be provided in the links listed below.