Many environmentalists have tended to focus on the damage humans have done to the Earth and ways in which we can protect it. But what happened to protecting humans? So many people around the world have fallen victim to the same environmental harms that affect our planet. Not only harming them but also our land in the process.
The people who experience the most problems are often those of lower class and of a racial minority. This is called environmental injustice or racism. Evidence indicates that minorities who are disadvantaged in terms of education, income, and occupation not only bear a disproportionate share of environmental risk and death but also have less power to protect themselves. Even children can be included in this demographic since schools are so often built on top of hazardous waste dumping sites.
Of course, studies have shown to usually only include schools in lower socio-economic class communities. The people living within the range of polluting facilities, animal agriculture factories, and others as such have an incredibly higher risk of developing health issues, eating contaminated products and even working precarious jobs.
While some people suggest that they could just “vote with their feet" and move elsewhere, this is nearly impossible for them. They are of a low economic class and do not possess the finances required to move. Additionally, they may be able to vote in local elections, but they have nowhere near enough power and influence like the large corporations committing these acts have.
The culprits of the consistency of environmental injustice reveal to be large companies and the government who allow the facilities to continue to run, despite their questionable and detrimental effects on the environment and the people living in surrounding areas.
Even here in North Carolina is one of the worse examples in the case of environmental injustice. A case beginning in 1982, when the North Carolina government allowed the construction of a polychlorinated biphenyl disposal site in a small township in Warren County.
Coincidentally, Shocco Township is 75% African American and comes in nearly last in annual income out of the entire state of North Carolina. Even the EPA allowed this facility to dump waste 7 feet above the water table while the normal requirement for this certain material is 50 feet.
Although, despite this obvious disgrace and consistent protests by the residents, the government won and continued to open the site, allowing this harmful waster to leach into the soil and groundwater. Instances like this have happened for years and continue to occur in places populated by poor minorities.
Clearly, these environmental harms are unevenly distributed within our own human environment, with minorities bearing the full brunt of these harms. The people of these communities should be more involved and informed about the decisions to where environmental harms should be placed. Not only the people living there but everyone so we are all able to make these decisions instead of the distant government and corporations.
Most often for these people, it is the case of not having the accurate, if any at all, knowledge about the situation and discrimination at hand. This is often times combined with not having enough money or political power to do anything about these situations, even if the knowledge is gained. Even while there are countless cases and proven studies exposing this mass occurrence of environmental injustice, there are always people who will counter argue it. This can be either excusing these actions or denying them all together.
We need to direct our attention more so at these issues affecting the poor and minorities of our country and the world because it is just perpetuating out civil rights inequality. We are not going to advance as a society if we keep putting these harmful facilities in the areas of these people just because they do not have the ability to fight back or because they are unlike “us”.
Furthermore, we need to eliminate these hazardous habits in the first place because they are greatly affecting our planet in such a negative way, and these effects reaching human populations should be an even better reason to do something about it. While yes, there are extreme benefits to putting this morality at the forefront of our minds to protect the human population, we cannot let this overshadow the environmental issue at hand.
Pollution is effecting our planet extremely negatively, and while this is definitely effecting people as well, if we do not pay attention and put in the effort to protect our planet as well, there will be no planet left for people to live on.