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Emmaleigh Peiker

Sussex Central HS, 9th grade

Environmental Justices and Injustices 

Environmental justice is the fair treatment of everyone, regardless of identification, ethnicity, disability, or anything alike, about the federal decisions made that affect human health and the environment. But what would that make environmental injustice? Environmental injustice comes in many forms but all keep the same idea, inequality causes people to suffer because of federal decisions regarding the environment.  

There are many different ways that people can be affected by environmental injustices, though it typically only happens to low-income communities or those of color. What happens in most cases is that marginalized communities are exposed to disproportionate amounts of pollution. These people are exposed to this because of the decisions made by the government that offer unequal protection of the environment. Though the effects of this are not talked about much, most people know that pollution is what causes it, but not what happens because of it. 

Most commonly, in the short term, people will experience respiratory infections, waterborne diseases, and possibly fertility problems. Nonetheless, people who are exposed to pollution for a longer time will experience many more issues that are far more serious. Some of these health problems include increased rates of stroke, heart disease, dermatitis, immune deficiency, kidney disease, and tooth decay. But that is for the average population, not children, because children are still growing they will experience those issues but on another level. As children are more vulnerable to the toxins that their bodies are exposed to, they can end up with immature metabolic pathways. That means that they become even more susceptible to the toxins and that they are harder for the body to get rid of. This, in turn, can cause even more serious issues later in life due to their body not being able to process disease and hazardous chemicals quickly or at all.  

Unfortunately, there are times when people we know and care for are affected by environmental injustices. Someone I know who has been affected by such injustices is my grandmother. Before I was born, my grandmother was stuck living in an area where poverty ran rampant due to some unfortunate circumstances. She lived alone, in a small mobile home community. However, there were many issues with the water being extremely polluted, to the point that people were getting sick. People in the area could not drink the water, take showers, or even wash clothes without having a filter for the water. Yet, this safety hazard was only caused because of a choice made by someone else that affected everyone in the area. There was a factory that was close to the neighborhood, which had many chemical outputs which contaminated the water. Because of this, my grandmother chose to save up her money and leave to avoid the dangers that came with such a necessity being polluted. Luckily, due to her choice to leave, she managed to avoid the adverse effects of the water and never actually got sick from it unlike many other people there. 

Researchers have found that the preferred way of pinpointing the issue is to simply look at a map. Usually, these places will have many toxic facilities concentrated around it, though that’s not all. Once they have found where there are the most pollutants, they have to look at the demographics of the people who live in the area. From the demographics, which are usually found through surveys or data that is found on the internet, they will typically find that there are communities of color or poverty. But one key question remains, how do they try to fix these injustices once they find them? 

On the governmental scale, some people make attempts to stop these injustices and make sure that everyone is environmentally equal. They have many methods of doing this, one being environmental justice executive orders. An example of one of these orders would be, Executive Order 12898. This order was made to address environmental justice for minority and low-income populations on a federal level. This helps to make sure that the environmental and health issues are talked about in hopes of change for the populations affected. However, the orders are not the only way to try to prevent and even end the issues altogether. Some more ways they try to prevent this are by making laws, setting standards, and much more. But there have to be people to push for this to happen when the people in charge do not see it as important. 

The people who fight for environmental justice are The Environmental Protection Agency, which is an agency that works for the government. Their overall goal is to prevent the terrible effects that come from environmental injustices. They are the ones behind the scenes who create the environmental justice executive orders, they are the ones who set the standards, and they are the ones trying to keep the environment safe for everyone. Despite that, they can not do everything to help prevent the circumstances from worsening. Who could even step up and try to help? 

The people who can try to put in the effort to help redress the situation are the youth. Many people would ask how someone so young could even help such a serious subject, though there are many possibilities. Firstly, they can help to advocate for a change, people and youth need to raise their voices to raise awareness. They can do this safely by reaching out to elected officials, attending public hearings, and participating in peaceful protests. Secondly, they can decrease environmental impact. Ways of doing this include using reusable bottles and bags, reducing energy use, and eating locally sourced produce. Thirdly, they can support environmental organizations. Many organizations exist that aim to help the environment and aid in the environmental problems that the community itself is facing. 

In conclusion, the idea of environmental injustice is extremely flawed and hurts many people. Yet it cannot just be left at that, there is so much that people can do to help the issue as a whole. Not only can adults help, but so can the youth, anyone can help fix the environment and the injustices that some people experience. It is terrible when someone close to you experiences the effects, and it can happen to anyone. So, the people need to get involved and stand up to help fight for environmental justice to make sure that people do not need to go through something that never should have existed to begin with. 

Works Cited 

Chambers, Courtney. “How You Can Advocate for Environmental Justice.” IGNITE National, 22 April 2023 

“Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).” 

“Learn About Environmental Justice | US EPA.” Environmental Protection Agency, 6 February  

“Mapping environmental injustices: pitfalls and potential of geographic information systems in assessing environmental health and.” EHP Publishing 

“Who Is Affected By Environmental Injustice?” Ben Crump 

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