Will We Ever Get Environmental Justice?

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I am a proponent of environmental justice.  According to the EPA, environmental justice is the fair treatment of all people regardless of race, color or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.  We will have environmental justice when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision making process to have a healthy environment to live learn and work.  A clean environment is the great equalizer.  It seems as if society is afraid of the value our communities will bring when we are on an equal playing field.

There is a pattern of pollution-producing facilities being located in poor communities of color.  No one wants a diesel bus garage, landfill, fertilizer plant or a factory as a neighbor.  However, business owners and regulatory zoning boards found it was easier to have these facilities in low-income African American/people of color communities than in white, middle to upper income communities.  People in poor communities lack access to the decision makers on zoning boards or people in city councils that could speak up for their interests.  Access to capital to hire the legal expertise to fight these matters was also lacking.

Not all things are equal when it comes to the burden of an unhealthy environment.  A clean environment will cut health care costs.  In cities and towns across America, low-income communities and communities of color are forced to shoulder pollution’s heaviest burdens. These communities are forced to seek healthcare in hospitals and emergency rooms due to environmental hazards.  The rates of hospitalizations and deaths due to asthma are 3 times higher among African Americans than among whites.  . Children who live near freeways, ports, and rail yards are five times more likely to have lung damage than kids who don’t.

What will happen when environmental justice is realized?  The biggest result is the increase of the value to our society.  The possibilities are endless.  Wonderful things happen when your mind and body are clean of toxins and pollution.  Our communities will become centers of innovation and spur prosperity over all industries.  We will be able to come up with strategies to make buildings more efficient, travel more effective, art more expressive and take over the fashion industry.  Our schools will be the crown jewel of the community because they will produce doctors, lawyers, engineers and other professionals to continue the cycle.

All people of color want is an equal shot.  The equal shot begins with environmental justice.  The people of our community are not here to dominate society but to enhance it. Unfortunately, the majority of white citizens see this as a threat instead of a blessing. Until white America realize this, we continue to be undervalued, under estimated and marginalized.

I want to hear from you.  You can follow me on Twitter @tcsheff.   I have also created a new face book page WordsactionChange Initiative. Please share and follow. #wordsactionchange

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