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Kourtney Warren

Newark Charter High School

Environmental Justice


When most people think of the effects of climate change, global warming, and pollution, they only consider the damage that it does to our Earth and to other species. This concern for these victims is completely justified because the damage that has been inflicted upon them is immense. From the deforestation that humans carry out to the use of fossil fuels that drives our factories and plagues our atmosphere, to the vast amount of plastics littering our oceans, the list is endless. However, the effort to stop these terrible practices has been hindered by money-hungry, selfcentered capitalists who do not care about issues that they believe do not directly affect them. They hear that the polar bears are dying from the melting snow caps and sea life is dying from plastic pollution, and they do not care. They might not know that it severely impacts the lives of humans, or that it WILL happen in their lifetime, or if they do know, they just do not care. 

Most people are aware of the more well-known consequences of climate change. For example, the intensification in weather patterns which have caused fires to burn through forests taking houses in their blaze and caused hurricanes that drown towns, sweeping away families in their wake. However, fewer people know about the subtle effects of environmental injustices, how the everyday exposure to pollution builds up over time and can increase the odds of cancer in old age. This is a direct example of an up and coming field of science called epigenetics, which is the study of how humans’ actions and their environment affects their genes and children’s genetic makeup. Studies show that there are direct correlations between increased exposure to pollutants and cardiovascular, respiratory and cancerous diseases (Li et. al). With this in perspective, it becomes clear that this is one major case of the many environmental injustices in neighborhoods with people of color in Delaware, in the United States, and throughout the world. 

There are disproportionately more people of color living in cities, cities that have tremendous amounts of air pollution, and this air pollution can cause horrific health issues. Even though they are the victims of factories’ air pollution, they are often not the cause nor the beneficiaries of the factories that are ruining their health. Most of these factories are owned by multimillionaires who live far from the area and do not have to face the damages that they cause. And those who work in these factories, are typically receiving unlivable wages and work long hours in order to keep these millionaires’ factories running. While their economic conditions are out of their control, their work in these cancerous factories is not without sacrifice, whether it is known or unknown to them. 

People living near factories and other corporations that produce significant air pollution are more likely to suffer from diseases such as asthma, lung cancer, and heart disease because of the benzene, methylene chloride, and other harmful chemicals in the air. This correlation between air pollution and health conditions has been seen simply through observation, but on a more miniscule level, it also can affect people’s genes on a cellular level, which can be passed on to their offspring. This is one way that environmental injustices such as populations living near pollutant producing factories can transform into generational racism and classism- the ramifications of one generation living in a city with high air pollution can easily be felt generations later. In Delaware, many companies are incorporated here for the low corporate taxes, however this also draws in factories, and as a result, high pollution. As a Delawarean, who has family that lives in Wilmington, a city with high air pollution, I have a personal relation to this issue. 

While this fact is difficult to ignore, there are still high-class individuals who do not care about how their negative practices impact lives that are not theirs. Many of them do not understand that the air pollution does not just impact the epigenetics of the residents of cities, but it affects everyone, including the billionaires, and the future generation. This unwillingness to take initiative is one of the reasons this is such a complex issue. And because this is such a deeprooted issue, it will not be a painless undertaking to solve; it will take a multifaceted approach that will not happen overnight. However, as youth who are educated and aware of the repercussions of climate change and air pollution, it is important to act. We need to continue to educate the population through initiatives such as the Youth Environmental Summit and Interfaith Power and Light so that everyone is equipped with the tools to take individual action. As more of our generation become citizens who can vote in elections, it is imperative that legislators hear our concerns and aid us in our collective effort to save our environment- a task that has been pushed off for generations and has become our responsibility to tackle. While this will be an arduous endeavor, I am optimistic that, with dedication and hard work, our generation will be the one to flip the tide of climate change and make the world a safer, healthier place for the future generations. 

Works Cited

Li, Guoping , et al. “Role of Epigenetics in Environmental Pollution Associated Diseases | 

Frontiers Research Topic.”, n-associateddiseases#:~:text=Epidemiological%20studies%20have%20shown%20that% 20environmental%20pollution%20was. Accessed 6 May 2023. 

UCAR. “Effects of Air Pollution | UCAR Center for Science Education.”, 2023, 

Villarosa, Linda. “Pollution Is Killing Black Americans. This Community Fought Back.” The New York Times, 28 July 2020,

:text=Black%20Americans%20are%20exposed%20to%201.5%20times%20as. Accessed 6 May 2023. 


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