In many places across the globe, people share their neighborhoods with hazardous waste facilities, chemically contaminated areas, and toxic incinerators. The story of communities living in contamination is neither rare nor surprising anymore. However, did you know that not all of us get exposed to toxic waste and pollution equally? Many different studies have provided strong evidence for disproportionate vulnerability to environmental hazards that mainly affects the people of color, immigrants, indigenous communities, women, and members of low socioeconomic groups. This pattern has been referred to as Environmental Racism – the concept that developed as a part of the environmental justice movement.
Causes of Environmental Injustice
Scholars have been trying to determine the root causes of environmental racism. Different explanations have been suggested including socioeconomic factors, politics, and pure discrimination. We will be taking a quick look over a few:
- Profits Before People – This is a very common explanation for environmental inequality. It supports the view that environmental injustice has nothing to do with intentional discrimination. Rather it places an emphasis on cost-effectiveness for corporations. Many organizations try to place their facilities at places where land and labor are affordable with the aim of maximizing profits. Quite often, marginalized communities live at closeby sites and lack resources to move out making them vulnerable to industrial hazards. At first glance this explanation makes quite a sense, however, the recent study suggests that African Americans who earn around $60,000 are exposed to much higher levels of industrial chemicals, air pollution, and poisonous heavy metals than are profoundly poor white people with annual incomes of $10,000.
- Discrimination as a Matter – Many researchers place a direct emphasis on institutional discrimination and racism and link environmental injustice to historical, cultural, and psychological circumstances. They suggest that for some white people it might be morally acceptable to contain toxic waste in the neighborhoods of people of color. This idea is supported by the fact that Racial aspects are demonstrated in myriad areas such as healthcare and education, not just environmental injustice.
- Difference Between Environmental Standards & The Power of Society – Environmental racism can be present anywhere in the world. Many large corporations have taken the advantage of lower environmental standards in poorer countries and downsized their operations in the places of stringent regulations. Contemporary international businesses possess transnational power and sometimes are even more influential than nation-states. In the majority of developing countries society experiences the Lack of Power and is extremely vulnerable to adverse effects of environmental hazards.
What can be done to combat Environmental Injustice?
The very first step towards tackling environmental inequalities is the recognition of the problem, its scale, and its determinants. Broader challenges with racial implications should be addressed with adequate law and enforcement. Countries, Organizations, and individual communities should invest in creating equitable societies and the majority of responsibility relies on those with resources and power to do so. The Contemporary world should promote an ethical and irreproachable decision-making process instead of prioritizing sole profits. Ecofriendly technologies and technological advancement in general can also serve as great relief while resolving disparity issues.
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