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Environmental Justice_Nicole KibertCkibertedits)

Environmental Justice_Nicole KibertCkibertedits) - Cultural...

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Cultural and Legal Strategies for Combating Environmental Injustice By Nicole C. Kibert Environmental injustice is a phenomena that occurs in the United States and around the world, in which people of color and of lower socio-economic status are disproportionately affected by pollution, the siting of toxic waste dumps, and other Locally Unwanted Land Uses (LULUs). This paper addresses the historical and philosophical background of environmental injustice and reviews potential legal, practical and philosophical solutions for achieving environmental justice. Initially “environmental justice” was referred to as “environmental racism” because of the disproportionate impact on people of color; however, it is now clear that environmental health risks are foisted predominately on lower income groups of all racial and ethnic groups. In order to be inclusive, as well as to avoid the extra baggage that comes with calling something “racist”, practitioners almost exclusively use the term “environmental justice” rather than “environmental racism”. 1 Though a discussion regarding nomenclature may seem superfluous, in the context of a discussion of the origins and strategies for achieving environmental justice it is actually integral. The way that a society assigns a connotation on top of a word’s denotation has an enormous impact on how a phrase will be interpreted by the general public. Use of the term “Environmental Justice” is a step in bringing the issue of a right to live in a healthy environment for all people – not just to those who are interested in racial equality. 1 Dr. Robert Bullard has said that “getting caught up in the term ‘racism’ is counterproductive” because that connotes intent, and regardless of whether intent is present, the result to the community is the same – a greater threat to their health from toxic sources. Steven Keeva, A breath of justice: along with equal employment opportunity and voting, living free from pollution is emerging as a new civil right, 80 American Bar Association Journal 88 (February 1994). 1
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What is environmental justice? The United States Environmental Protection Agency 2 defines “Environmental Justice” as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws regulations and policies. Fair treatment means that no group - including racial, ethnic or socioeconomic groups - should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal, and commercial operations or the execution of federal, state, local and tribal programs. 3 Many studies have shown that, over the past 20 years, minorities - African Americans in particular - are more likely to live in close proximity to an environmental hazard. Unfortunately, there are many examples to choose from to illustrate this observation.
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