Recently the environment has become a hot topic in our society. There has been a huge push to go green coming from celebrities, the media, etc. Many people think they are fairly knowledgeable about the environment, as I had thought, but I had never heard about environmental racism before.
If you are anything like me, you may be wondering yourself what is environmental racism? Environmental racism is “the process whereby environmental decisions, actions, and policies result in racial discrimination or the creation of racial advantages. It arises from the interaction of three factors: (1) prejudicial belief and behavior, (2) the personal and institutional power to enact policies and actions that reflect one’s own prejudices, and (3) privilege, unfair advantages over others and the ability to promote one’s group over another.” (Taylor, 2011)
In the 80s environmental campaigns began popping up as people of color pushed to “prevent the poisoning of farm workers with pesticides; lead poisoning in inner-city children; the sting of noxious facilities-landfills.” (Taylor, 2011) These campaigns prompted some research and it was discovered that “people of color were more likely to live close to hazardous waste sites and facilities than whites.” (Taylor, 2011)
To get a better understanding of environmental racism, I did some research on specific examples. After looking at nationwide ones, I narrowed into Ohio. East Liverpool, Ohio, is a town above the Ohio River, and “is home to the highest cancer rate in Ohio.” Waste Technologies Industries, is a large toxic waste incinerator, whose smokestacks sit at the same level as homes and businesses in the area. The toxins emitted are known to be cancer causing and yet the company is 100% legal. The people living in the direct vicinity are “near the poverty line and few can afford to move.” (Earth Day Coalition, 2011)
It is scary to think that even being fully aware of the health issues, a company would be allowed to continue. The people of East Liverpool had no say in the matter and their children and themselves are having to grow up in conditions that anyone in their right mind would chose not to, but because of their financial conditions they cannot leave. Just because they have a lower income should not mean that we can let their lives be so obviously harmed.
Our country has made tremendous advancements over the last few decades, bettering the lives of our nations people should be at the forefront, the minority groups should not be targets of environmental racism just because it seems like an easier solution.
Earth Day Coalition. (2011). Environmental justice. Retrieved from http://www.earthdaycoalition.org/content/environmental-justice
Taylor, D. (2011). Environmental racism. Retrieved from http://www.pollutionissues.com/Ec-Fi/Environmental-Racism.html
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