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Aanya Gupta

Posted on June 19, 2022 at 6:44 pm

Aanya Gupta

Of course, various methods of pollution affect all kinds of fish, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and plants, but what – or who – else? Society must shine a light on the fact that certain vulnerable communities are also prone to suffer the effects of the detrimental habitat surrounding them, resulting from environmental injustice. To me, environmental justice is all about how the amount of environmental burden one has to carry should not depend on socioeconomic status, race, or anything of the sort.

Environmental injustice is a very real and crucial phenomenon that has been going on for decades. Many articles include data and statistics reflecting the claims of environmental injustice and discuss how people of color are more likely to suffer the effects of pollution than those who are white. Multiple factors play into this, including past housing segregation and redlining.

Redlining was a practice in which housing authorities marked off areas on maps and deemed them to be too dangerous or hazardous; therefore, people residing in those areas were denied any loans for housing or finance. These ‘hazardous’ areas mostly consisted of low-income people of color. This created segregated neighborhoods full of marginalized minority groups, especially the Black community. Then, there was also the explosion of industrialization in earlier decades. Companies started manufacturing, which resulted in exceeding amounts of pollution. Those companies located in low-cost areas full of people of color who had to bear the large amounts of pollution extracted by the production of goods. The irrefutable environmental racism and discrimination are still seen today. In her Insider article, Natalie Colarossi writes, “Studies have shown that non-Hispanic whites have the lowest exposure rates to air pollution, as opposed to Hispanic and Black Americans, and that over half of the people who live in close proximity to toxic waste facilities are people of color.” These companies, while in the process of manufacturing, can pollute the air, soil, and water, but they aren’t the ones being impacted by it. People living in communities nearby face the wrath of the companies’ actions. They didn’t play with the fire, yet they are still getting burned. It’s already unlikely that those community members get a say in what goes on where they live, but it’s even more unlikely that even if they did, something would be done about it. On top of higher exposure to chemicals, waste, pollutants, etc., these low-income minorities are less likely to receive health benefits and safety from the threats that they are more likely to face. They might not have the resources that they need to support themselves after an environmental calamity or natural disaster. That means less benefit and more burden.

Evidence of this has been shown in the Britannica article written by Michael Ray titled “Flint water crisis”: “The report also characterized the crisis as a clear-cut example of environmental injustice, as evidenced by the fact that Flint’s poor, largely African American population ‘did not enjoy the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards as that provided to other communities.’” Even though these communities were hit the hardest, they failed to receive the same protection as other groups. An additional example of environmental injustice that the Insider article covers is Cancer Alley – multiple miles of factories and industry near Lousiana – an area where most nearby residents are Black. The massive amounts of water and air pollution gathered in the area produce debilitating health risks, one of them being cancer, hence the location’s name. The Black community has no choice but to resign to the debased environment surrounding them. This is just one of the many examples of how certain groups are more vulnerable when it comes to environmental injustice.

Pollution is not as evenly distributed as many people think. Multiple sources support this claim. To add on, the New York Times article titled “People of Color Breathe More Hazardous Air. The Sources Are Everywhere” written By Hiroko Tabuchi and Nadja Popovich discusses, “Black Americans are exposed to more pollution from every type of source, including industry, agriculture, all manner of vehicles, construction, residential sources, and even emissions from restaurants. People of color more broadly, including Black and Hispanic people and Asian- Americans, are exposed to more pollution from nearly every source.” Even after considering multiple pollution sources, all of them seem to affect people of color more significantly than white people. 

Environmental justice should absolutely be a dominating factor in climate activism in Delaware for multiple reasons. For one, working toward such a broad problem is likely to happen piece by piece. If Delaware advocates for it and practices justice, it might help inspire and help other states pursue the same incredible cause. Another reason is that this injustice is actively occurring in Delaware. Seen it or not, there are minority groups living near industrial corridors, and they are at higher risk of facing health risks because of it. In addition, Delaware might be able to engage in environmental justice by pursuing it in local school curriculums. This could help educate young students and have them help to advocate and take action. Lastly, state legislation might be able to help locally.  We can take general advances towards reducing air pollution by using renewable resources instead of non-renewable resources. We have to do this in unity, and Delaware advocating for environmental justice is a huge step in the overall process.

Environmental injustice is extremely important even today, especially because pollution is a real problem that is still growing and spreading like an uncontrolled inferno.

Sources used:
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/28/climate/air-pollutionminorities.html#:~:text=More%20Hazardous%20Air.-,The%20Sources%20Are%20Everywhere .,industry%2C%20agriculture%20and%20even%20restaurants.

https://bencrump.com/environmental-justice-lawyer/what-causes-environmental- injustice/

https://www.insider.com/environmental-racism-examples-united-states-2020-8?amp

https://www.britannica.com/event/Flint-water-crisis

https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/attach/2017/10/ej-for-de-report-ucs- 2017.pdf

https://www.khanacademy.org/test-prep/mcat/social-inequality/social- class/v/environmental-justice

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