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Xiwen Yang

Conrad Schools of Science

Environmental justice


The Impact of Environmental Justice on Low-Income Populations Environmental issues have been a familiar topic in our lives since their origins in the 19th century and became more widely known in the early 1970s. To this day, each of us should be able to name at least one environmental issue. Such as global warming, water pollution, loss of biodiversity, air pollution, etc. And we clearly understand that each of these issues will have a significant impact on our future. But that’s where our understanding of environmental issues stops, at the future. Most people in the U.S. are not affected by environmental issues in the present, and we still enjoy clean water, warm houses in the winter and cool air in the summer. Environmental issues are as far away from us as a movie on TV, an article in a school assignment, or a picture. But all around us, in the same country, low-income people are struggling with environmental problems. At this time, environmental justice is crucial. Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful participation of all people, regardless of race, color, national origin or income, in the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies. 

In Syracuse, upstate New York, a viaduct separates the surrounding neighborhoods, with wellmaintained green spaces of large buildings for college students on the east side and a predominantly low-income black neighborhood on the west side. The aging I-81 viaduct has exposed the school facing it to poor air quality and other environmental toxins for decades. According to NYCLU, the Syracuse City School District’s asthma rates are higher than the state average. “Many of these children live and go to school here, and so there will be long-term development symptoms, especially since their lungs don ‘t develop properly until they’re close to their teenage years,” said Paskel.(Ramirez, 2021) And this is not an isolated case; Experts have said neighborhoods with higher concentrations of racial minorities and the economically disadvantaged are more likely to suffer health problems caused by environmental pollution or degradation.(Nakmura, Frats, 2022) Environmental pollution is more severe in poor areas, and environmental problems tend to affect low-income groups more profoundly, with serious consequences for them. Economic poverty and poor environment form a negative cycle, making the hardships they face even more severe. 

The government has also acted on the environmental pollution suffered by low-income people, with President Biden committing tens of billions of dollars to improve infrastructure and environmental programs in communities that bear a disproportionate burden in terms of pollution. (Nakamura, Fears, 2022) And in January, the E.P.A. proposed a draft rule that would tighten limits on fine particulate matter from the current standard of 12 The administration has estimated that the guidance could prevent as many as 4,200 premature deaths. The administration has estimated that the guidance could prevent as many as 4,200 premature deaths each year. And as 21st century youth, we can do more to help them. We can expand the concept of environmental justice by collaborating with green clubs in our schools to give talks on the topic of environmental justice, showing our students the plight of poor people due to environmental pollution and the importance of environmental justice, and calling them to action. We can also reach out to environmental non-profit organizations to express the importance of environmental justice to the government and call for corresponding legislation to correct and further prevent these injustices. 

Work Cited 

Nakamura, David, and Darryl Fears. “Justice Department Boosts Focus on Environmental Cases That Harm Poor.” Washington Post, 05/06 2022. ProQuest; SIRS Issues Researcher, Ramirez, Rachel. “The New York Highway That Racism Built: ‘It Does Nothing but Pollute’.” The Guardian (Online), 05/21 2021. ProQuest; SIRS Issues Researcher, 

Shao, Elena. “Tighter Air Rules Could Help People of Color the Most.” New York Times, 03/25

  1. 2023. ProQuest; SIRS Issues Researcher,