(302) 703-7086

Gary Guo

Dover High School

Environmental Justice

Become Part of the Solution

With the growing concern about climate change and other environmental issues, there has been an increase in the environmental activism and justice movement in Delaware. Environmental activism seeks to connect citizens with the natural world to improve the environment through education, advocacy, and conservation. As with many other states in the United States, Delaware has multiple environmental issues directly related to environmental damage and climate change; snowless winters, contaminated water from runoff and pesticides, and storms and erosion along the coastal areas. 

Many environmental activists are concerned about the impact of human activity on the natural world and believe that climate change is only a superficial symptom of a much deeper problem; the natural world has taken much damage from human activities and now all the underlying problems are surfacing. A holistic approach must be taken to lessen the impact and urgent action is needed to prevent further damage. 

Environmental activism takes many forms, from protesting and lobbying policymakers to promoting sustainability through direct actions and self- practices. Activists include individuals or groups – people who are genuinely passionate about the environment and willing to take action to protect it. The 

movement is gaining steady momentum in recent years. Delaware has multiple environmental issues, however, there are also proposed solutions to these issues. 

One notable environmental issue in Delaware is the pollution in its waterways: Delaware’s waterways are among the most polluted in the country. The problem is mostly due to the large number of slaughterhouses in the state. These slaughterhouses spray wastewater full of fecal matter and other harmful materials onto fields, in the long run, contaminating drinking water. Recently, a judge ordered the chicken products company Mountaire Farms to pay $65 million to nearby residents who claimed the company’s farming practices tainted their drinking water. 

Delaware’s waterways are also affected by various other contaminants, including agricultural runoff, wastewater discharges, and stormwater runoff. These pollutants can cause harm to aquatic life and have negative impacts on human health. Fortunately, there are potential solutions that can help mitigate the problem. One possible solution is the implementation of environmental-friendly infrastructure projects, which use natural systems to capture and treat stormwater before it enters waterways. These natural systems include green roofs, rain gardens or wetland ponds, and permeable pavements; they allow water to be filtered first instead of running off directly into streams and rivers. Many newer buildings, including the Dover Public Library, have these natural water treatment systems installed. 

Another approach to addressing water pollution in Delaware is to focus on reducing nutrient pollution. Farms are a major source of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, which can cause harmful algal blooms, creating oxygen- depleted “dead zones” in waterways. One way to deal with this problem is to encourage farmers to adopt better farming practices that can reduce nutrient runoff, such as growing cover crops, reducing tillage, and implementing effective fertilizing plans. The state could provide incentives for farmers who adopt these practices, such as grants or tax breaks. 

Nutrient pollution also includes adding too much salt on the roads in winter. To prevent roads from freezing, tons of salt are added before a broadcasted snowstorm, and excess road salts are often seen after the snow. Road salt can infiltrate the nearby ground and contaminate waterways. High salt levels in drinking water increase its hardness and affect people with high blood pressure. Salt is toxic to fish and other aquatic life in fresh waterways, leading to an imbalance in the ecosystem in these waterways. The high salt content in the soil contributes to a hypertonic surrounding and harms plants and microorganisms in the soil. One possible solution is to use computer modeling coupled with weather broadcasting software to accurately calculate how much road salt would be needed to prevent roads from freezing without adding excessive salt that can contaminate waterways. 

Finally, Delaware could address water pollution by improving wastewater treatment facilities. Many of the state’s aging wastewater treatment plants require upgrades and technical repairs to meet modern water quality 

standards. By investing in infrastructure upgrades, the government can ensure that wastewater is treated to a high standard before it is discharged into waterways. This also creates job opportunities and stimulates economic growth in the state. 

Solving environmental problems may feel remote for Delaware’s youth. However, the seemingly distant future is soon approaching. If action is not taken, society will quickly end up in a situation that would have been unimaginable in prior years. Therefore, it is time to take action now. 

Despite a lack of presence in local government, Delaware’s youth can still be active in promoting and engaging in environmental activism and conservation. They can take action in several ways. Individually, Delawareans can adopt a low-carbon-emission lifestyle by using fewer plastic and other one-time-use products, car-pooling, using public transportation, and saving electricity by turning off lights when they are not in use. As a group, Delawareans can form school clubs to educate other fellow students on environmental issues and advocate for lifestyles with a reduced carbon footprint. With adult advisors, they can organize educational events and workshops to raise awareness about the impact of environmental injustice on marginalized communities and the urgent need for action. Volunteers can go to elementary and pre-schools to lecture younger generations about environmental issues and their possible solutions. Citizens can buy more local produce and support environmentally conscious businesses. Not only does this help reduce the waste used by other products, but it also helps promote growth in the local economy. 

To be more active on a legislative scale, Delawareans can also engage in activities such as lobbying for better environmental protection policies, promoting sustainable practices in the communities, and engaging in civic activities, such as contacting local representatives and participating in environmental protests or rallies. 

Addressing environmental injustice and engaging in environmental activism requires a collective effort, including physical and logical input from all members of our society. By taking action, Delaware’s youth can play a vital role in promoting a more just and sustainable future for all, before irreversible damage is done to its environment.