Class 1: Introduction & Environmental Justice Discussion
Read before class on Tuesday, August 27
For today's class, find an environmental justice story online and post a link and a 1-to-3 sentence overview in the comments below (at the bottom of this post). We'll start class with a discussion about environmental justice, and we'll finish up with an overview of syllabus. (The "Our Syllabus" post contains a link to an introductory video.)
Today's reading is here:
Here's an environmental justice overview. (It's a brief but optional deeper dive read.)
What is environmental justice?
Here's the Wikipedia definition: "Environmental justice is 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."
Environmental justice issues include inadequate transportation and inadequate access to fresh foods, as well as exposure to air and water pollution, and also environmentally hazardous housing options.
Doing environmental justice work means engaging in efforts to improve and maintain clean, healthy environments for those who have traditionally lived, worked and played closest to sources of pollution. Environmental racism benefits white, wealthy communities with greater access to environmentally safe and beneficial resources and hurts poorer communities of color situated near environmental hazards, far from beneficial natural resources like recreational waterways and opportunities to plant, grow, and purchase unprocessed foods.
Does the federal government consider environmental justice in its decisionmaking processes? On paper, yes, but in practice, not so much. In 1992, the Office of Environmental Justice (originally called the office of Environmental Equity) was established within the EPA. Two years later, President Clinton signed Executive Order 12898, Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations. The Order established an Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice and directed federal agencies to develop environmental justice strategies. Beyond that, there is not a lot of regulatory infrastructure dedicated to environmental justice, nor is there legislative action that empower agency action on environmental justice. and we are not quite sure what's happening with the Office of Environmental Justice under the Trump Administration. The Chief Environmental Justice Official, Mustafa Ali, resigned at the outset of the current administration, asking the administration to protect vulnerable communities as he resigned.