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Question of the Week: What should environmental justice look like in your community?

2010 April 26

Some aspects of modern life can harm health and the environment. Environmental justice means that these effects should be shared fairly and that everyone should have the opportunity to participate in making decisions about environmental issues, regardless of race, color, national origin, or income.. Examples include:
Many inner cities still have sewer systems that are not designed to handle storm overflow, so raw sewage can flow into rivers and streams.

Farm workers, 90% of whom are people of color, may face serious health risks from pesticides.
Low income, and quite often culturally diverse populations, are more likely than other groups to live near landfills, incinerators, and hazardous waste treatment facilities.

What should environmental justice look like in your community?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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35 Responses leave one →
  1. Joan permalink
    April 26, 2010

    People need to be able to report environmental violations that adversely affect their communities and neighborhoods. That is the first step in ensuring environmental justice. As far as I can determine, there currently is no such tool widely available to the public. Any ideas?

  2. John G. Bloemer permalink
    April 26, 2010

    Environmenatl Justice should look like the availability of good paying jobs in manufacturing, and other industrial activity, NOT being forced overseas by overly opressive environmenatal laws, regulations, documentation, and reporting requirements. Justice of any kind is hard to maintain when there is economic depression and the resulting large disparity in income levels becasue of the lack of decent jobs for less educated individuals!
    There IS a balance between a pure and pristine environment, and jobs/economic development. To far to the left or right of this balance point is a BAD thing!
    I believe the loss of Ameraca’s industrial might to off-shore providers, in a large part due to environmental laws and regulations, is a national security issue.
    So called climate change legislation or regulation in the USA will be the killing blow to our economy. I can guarantee that no matter what we do on the Climate Change front, the climate will still change just as it has done many times in the past.

  3. Bonnie Aylor permalink
    April 26, 2010

    Well, to start off with, the environment around the low income areas should actually be managed. For two, even though there needs to me visual access from various directions, there still need to actually needs be trees and wildlife, and vegetation that supports optimal animal species. Also, less oil and cleaner tar, recycling, better garbage disposal, well managed buildings and properties, less of a feeling of being in prison, stricter building codes for surrounding businesses and deed restrictions for surrounding neighborhoods. Litter and debris removal, maybe even via prison cartel (it might also decrease stereotypes and labels). Space for individual planting or fences to give occupants a feeling of individuality, enhancing feelings of control. Plus, better placement and less pollution, etc.

  4. Lori J Latimer permalink
    April 26, 2010

    Environmental Justice should be a State aligning with the EPA to seek the health and welfare off all the citizens. In our State it is always the “Economic” advantages that are used to openly pollute without regard for human health or safety.

    The worse thing is that the “Economic advantage” is for the facility owners who don’t continue living here after they abandon their hazardous property. The dixonis that are left behind, are found in ground water, aquatic life, fowl and Arkansans DNA. The Economic advantage of getting a Tax Credit for abandoning their filthy properties is so unjust I cannot begin to compare – Fair and unfair.

    Our State is full of Superfund sites from those same Economic contributors, and once more the poor people of Arkansas pay in Health and Taxes. For Shame! It should be Commissions who are fair and not so slanted toward industry they allow facilities to have names that allude to an Official capacity… ie Arkansas Reclamation Center…, Prarie County Landfarm…All terrible, self-monitored pollutors.

  5. armansyahardanis permalink
    April 26, 2010

    In my country, our cultural not expansive ; step by step kill themselves by corruption, mentality degradation, vested interest, and don’t know what happen is this…..
    We have knowledge, but we don’t know the meaning of knowledge !

  6. davidinPA permalink
    April 26, 2010

    Local Communities need to be the focal point for stopping potential polluters before they pollute. This can be accomplished by Zoning Boards and local groups. Getting the Federal Government involved after the fact is NOT a very efficient method of addressing the problem(s). At best, some sort of lawsuit with monetary settlement occurs which does not benefit EITHER side.
    REASONABLE & LOW COST regulations with strict enforcement (and supporting LOCAL residents in their causes) is a better way. It is the UNREASONABLE & EXPENSIVE regulations that are driving businesses overseas (the proposed CO2 tax for example – which will impose a tax on the very air we breath out & the product of any combustion devices which we depend on for our standard of living.) Our planet has had extensive warming periods & cooling periods since it’s existence (for various natural reasons – volcanoes, earthquakes, ocean currents, sunspot activity, etc, etc.). The CO2 gas that we humans produce in the USA has less than .04% of world wide CO2 production (Deforestation without replacement has a much greater effect – plants need CO2 & reduce it’s presence in the atmosphere) LOCAL awareness (and less apathy) are the key(s) to preventing harmful pollution . As far as specifics (farm pesticide & landfills) – I’m certain there are specific regulations regarding both of these issues already (It’s the reporting & enforcing that are necessary).

  7. ken beets permalink
    April 26, 2010

    I think that the environmentalist should have an open mind instead of we have always done it this way and we have never see any new technology work and we don’t want to try any thing new. Yes it may work and cost less but what if it does not? YOU GET YOUR MONEY
    BACK AND YOU HAVE LOST NOTHING and many companies will put the product in on a trial basis. What do you think?
    Micro soft didn’t work
    Del Computer didn’t work
    Ford didn’t work
    So why do you think any thing else would work. I always thought that it was the old people who thought like this, Was I wrong

  8. Jim Adcock permalink
    April 26, 2010

    My community consists of the elderly, the adults, children, and grandchildren. Currently, most of the elderly and many of the adults perform an environmental injustice on the children and the grandchildren. They do this by finding it “inconvenient” to acknowledge the reality of global warming, because if they did recognize the reality of global warming they would be 1 to 2% less wealthy — 1 to 2% being what it would cost of GDP for our nation to fix our share of global warming pollution emissions. By not fixing these emissions we destroy the world that our children and grandchildren need to live on. Sell out the future of the world and the future of the human race for 1 to 2% of our current wealth??? What a shame!!!

  9. JTR permalink
    April 26, 2010

    People are suffering similar problems all over the World. Do you know about the Cochabamba Conference in Bolivia?

  10. JTR permalink
    April 26, 2010

    With every volcano and earthquake, with every ton of oil and minerals extracted from the ground, the planet is shrinking. Yet, you want to grow the economy forever.

  11. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    April 26, 2010

    One part of environmental justice is giving the people who live and work in the impacted communities the tools they need to make environmental change to improve health and safety. An outreach program is needed to get the word out to impacted communities on how and who to report environmental violations to. This needs to be don in multiple language formats to cover the different languages in different locations. It also should include information in large print, braile and in pictures. This is an important first step. Members of the impacted communities could decide to organize environmental task forces to have more influence in dealing with big corporations or government agencies. The areas with the worst water and air quality tend to be those that are lower income minority and/or disabled because housing cost less in more polluted areas. Best wishes, Michael E.Bailey.

  12. Karl permalink
    April 26, 2010

    Environmental justice is socialism.

  13. Aravind permalink
    April 27, 2010

    I believe in the fact that cleanliness is godliness.
    So as far as I am concerned , environment should be clean and well maintained.
    Deforestation is taking place at a larger rate these days.
    Government should take proper steps to control excess deforestation.

  14. ears (whs) permalink
    April 27, 2010

    the enviornmental justice in my community should help the streets and the plants. PEOPLE ALWAYS liter and therers always cars polluting as in there are poeple drivimg around when they shouldent be. i think.but it should look more like justice and not a corrupt society…. :)

  15. Alexander permalink
    April 27, 2010

    I Believe that enviormental justice should be availability of community land where people can go plant trees,plants and have picnics.

  16. dt wilson permalink
    April 27, 2010

    in my community there should be cleaner parks with more space so it wont be so crowded. the houses should have a bigger yard so people can grow trees and planets which will help the environment.

  17. Mr.G permalink
    April 27, 2010

    In our community environmental impact is changing. For many years development took place without much regard to the impact on the environment or the preservation of green spaces. Now, it seems that there are at least some safeguards in place, although in many cases the damage is done.

  18. W.E. permalink
    April 27, 2010

    There should be more parks and reserved land for wilderness.

  19. Jesús Torres Navarro permalink
    April 27, 2010

    Radico en México, soy mexicano, pero pienso que la Justicia Ambiental, para que sea realmente efectiva debe difundirse y promoverse de manera global; en todos los Países y en todas las Comunidades en cada País. Tengo como todos los mexicanos, muchos parientes, amigos y contactos en los EEUU con quienes comparto mis inquietudes para que cada día más personas en los EEUU y en todo el mundo, impulsemos medidas colectivas de Justicia Ambiental; prácticas de Sentido Común, para hacer este mundo mejor ahora y en el futuro
    Felicito a la EPA por la oportunidad que nos dan de informarnos y opinar y por esta excelente labor que realizan en beneficio de nuestro Planeta

  20. A Mom permalink
    April 28, 2010

    Using prison labor for litter and debris removal is something that my very rural county has been doing for a long time. It not only benefits the community – by having cleaner roadways – it benefits those housed in corrections by helping them make “ammends” in some way for whatever it is they have done. It also has been reported that this type of service has the added benefit of giving those in corrections a sense of pride for themselves and their community which may help them steer away from becoming repeat offenders once their time has been served.

  21. mike permalink
    April 28, 2010

    The EPA has a map of “hot zones” or areas in the US of concern regarding pollution issues. Progress in my area would involve the removal (clean up) of those areas. Environmental justice would also involve the prevention of such zones, which will probably mean internal initiatives taken by companies toward pollution / waste prevention and adopting all 3 of the main principles of sustainability – economics, environment, and equity – not just economics.
    Although not a “hot zone,” near my work location, which is in a relatively poor area, a local company has partnered with state and local governments to coordinate the cleanup of an abandoned manufacturing site – removal of old buildings and disposal of contaminated soil – with plans to convert the area into a park and tourist attraction. To me, this is one good way environmental justice can be expressed. It bothers me, though, that it still seems possible for companies to walk away from sites (usually after filing for bankruptcy) and leave the cleanup to someone else.

  22. Sharon permalink
    April 28, 2010

    You mess it up, you clean it up, and make restitution, at your expense, to the point that the environment appears no impact was ever made.

  23. Chris S permalink
    April 30, 2010

    There is a big difference between the intent of a law and the actual practice. The intent of the Superfund was to provide money for cleanup of toxic sites… instead became a feeding trough for lawyers and consultants over a twenty year period.
    Environmental Justice is supposed to identify areas that get a disproportionate amount of environmental degradation and turn that trend around. What I have seen so far is some public meetings that have little if any influence on the outcome.
    What would work better is to add a charge onto a new project that specifically funds a project/cleanup/action desired by the affected community. Besides meeting the routine environmental standards, the company or agency that wants the project has to meet additional requirements that takes the low cost of the property out of the equation.

  24. Joan Ripple permalink
    May 4, 2010

    Environmental justice should allow us to have a choice about what our bodies and health are exposed to… Artificial electromagnetic fields and radio frequencies are ubiquitous. Now electric companies want to put “smart meters” on our homes that will bathe us in these fields.

    This is particularly devastating because the “safe exposure” standards allowed in the U.S. are 500 to 1000 times greater than those allowed in most European countries, Russia and China.

    Look for a loomin public health problem when there are more cases and more severe cases of asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. The U.S. chooses to ignore scientific studies on this subject.

    It is estimated that at least 3% of the population will develop electrohypersensitivity, a condition recognized in other countries. Why are we so arrogant???

    We have a right to protect ourselves.

  25. David Lynch permalink
    May 6, 2010

    Environmental justice in my community would be fining the few people who are not giving a dam about our earth.There always the ones that throw litter out there car windows, driving around in oil sucking cars blowing smoke left right and center and the list goes on. If we can’t all do the basic things what hope have we got. These people need to be fined where it hurts there hip pocket.

  26. Karl permalink
    May 7, 2010

    You forgot this:

  27. aamir permalink
    December 19, 2010

    Thank you for taking this step. It would be interesting to know how helpful it has been for you personally. I like the idea of dofollow blogs, but get very irritated when the bulk of the responses are of the kind, “Great post, I enjoyed reading it,” or “Fantastic blog, keep up the good work.”


  28. Anthony permalink
    March 15, 2011

    I think the enviromental justice in my community should be patroled by Guys in Green shirts on segways. Riding around with the metal grabbers to pick up trash. :)

  29. Zandra permalink
    March 15, 2011

    I believe that my community still has a long way to go to create a healthier environment for us to in. The streets should be lined up with trees, recycling bins should be placed in front of businesses, etc. People do not seem to realize that the preservation of the environment is very important, so an awareness program should be created

  30. jenny :P permalink
    March 15, 2011

    I believe that people should look after themself becasue they are the ones who make a mess and yet thoes people dont clean up after themself. If we all pick up after ourselves we can make a big difference in a little way.

  31. Anonymous permalink
    March 15, 2011

    envronmental justice should look like a community that doesnt takes nothing but cleanness

  32. another opinion permalink
    December 22, 2011

    There is no such thing as Enviromental Justice… only Equal Justice as protected under the Constitution…

    EJ is just a way to implement socialism with flowery language… take from one group and redistribute to another in the name of the environment. This will backfire severly because patriots will respond with conviction to prevent this gobbly gook overreach.

  33. June 24, 2012

    thank to poster. i like this

  34. biochemistry permalink
    December 20, 2013

    There always the ones that throw litter out there car windows, driving around in oil sucking cars blowing smoke left right and center and the list goes on biochemistry

  35. Travis permalink
    April 7, 2015

    Great post. This is very interesting. Thanks for sharing this useful information.

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