What is Environmental Injustice?

2011_Zambia_chinesecoppermines

[Photo from Zambia: Workers Detail Abuse in Chinese-Owned Mines]

Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, income, etc, with regard to the enforcement of environmental policies. Unfortunately we, as the people, have been doing the opposite. There are places in close proximity to toxic areas where people live or work daily that are generally too unbalanced for the normal human body. Sometimes it’s the disregard of foundation owners, like in Zambia, where locals work from 12 to 18 hours in fume infested tunnels. The chinese state-run copper mining industry is poorly kept in safety and labor conditions.

Overall things such as air pollution, industrial sites, illegal waste dumping, mercury exposure, food deserts, unsafe water, and others, are considered forms environmental injustice. A common problem is people of color exposed to 38% more deadly chemicals and because of that they have a higher risk of heart and general health problems. Some speculate that corporations actively target communities in a weak state. There is evidence that regulators miss clear violations in these communities, by wrongly believing firms are cooperative with the regulation rules. This phenomenon is known as “compliance bias.” Areas that can’t fight back because of lack of resources and/or lack of political capital to resist environmental hazard fall victim to these situations. 
The unequal enforcement needs to be noticed for it to be dealt with. Regulators find violations at sluggish rates and put small penalties to action in vulnerable communities. This kind of information is found throughout history. Environmental justice is about ‘the people’ getting the message across and around that we need to work together and communicate to bring a final action. Making the people who have never been in environmentally unstable areas see what it’s like or how bad things can get. The connections made inspire others to have stronger environmental justice as well. And that’s what this is all about.

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