Environmental racism

Environmental racism

Environmental racism refers to intentional or unintentional racial discrimination in the enforcement of environmental rules and regulations, the intentional or unintentional targeting of minority communitiesBullard, Robert D. "Unequal Protection: Environmental Justice and Communities of Color" Sierra Club Books, 1994] for the siting of polluting industries, or the exclusion of minority groups from public and private boards, commissions, and regulatory bodies.

The term was coined and defined by Reverend Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. Executive Director and CEO of the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice.Chavis, Jr., Benjamin F. and Lee, Charles "Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States" United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice, 1987] ]

Environmental justice is the movement to reverse environmental racism.Bullard, Robert D. "Confronting Environmental Racism: Voices from the Grassroots" South End Press, 1993] Lavelle, Marriane and Marcia Coyle "Critical Mass Builds on Environmental Equity" The National Law Journal, Washington Briefs Sec. 5, September 21, 1992]


In the United States

Since the term "environmental racism" was coined, researchers have investigated why minorities are more likely than whites to reside in areas where there is more pollution. [http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070709133240.htm Environmental Racism Study Finds Levels Of Inequality Defy Simple Explanation] ] Some social scientists suggest that the historical processes of suburbanization and decentralization are examples of white privilege that have contributed to contemporary patterns of environmental racism.Pulido, Laura "Rethinking Environmental Racism: White Privilege and Urban Development in Southern California", Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 90, No. 1, pp. 12-40, March 2000] In the United States, the wealth of a community is not nearly as good a predictor of hazardous waste locations as the ethnic background of the residents, suggesting that the selection of sites for hazardous waste disposal involves racism.http://archive.gao.gov/d48t13/121648.pdf Siting of Hazardous Waste Landfills and Their Correlation with Racial and Economic Status of Surrounding Communities U.S. Government Accountability Office, Washington, D.C., 1983] These minority communities may be easier targets for environmental racism because they are less likely to organize and protest than their middle or upper class white counterparts. This lack of protest could be due to fear of losing their jobs, thereby jeopardizing their economic survival. [ Citation
first1=Robert D., Ph.D.
first2=Paul, Ph.D.
first3=Robin, Ph.D.
first4=Beverly, Ph.D.
title=Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty: 1987-2007
publisher=United Church of Christ
date=March 2007

tudies and Reports

Researcher James T. Hamilton studied American zip codes targeted for capacity expansion in plans by commercial hazardous waste facilities from 1987 to 1992, and locations targeted for hazardous waste facilities had an average nonwhite population of 25 percent, versus 18 percent for those areas without net expansion. Hamilton suggests that differences in the probability that residents will raise a firm's expected location costs by engaging in successful collective action to oppose expansion offer the best explanation for which neighborhoods are targeted by polluting industries.Hamilton, James T. "Testing for Environmental Racism: Prejudice, Profits, Political Power", Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp. 107-132, Winter 1995] Another study centered around Los Angeles in 1997 found that working-class minority communities are more frequently targeted for the construction of hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities. [ [http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=2451739 Is there environmental racism? The demographics of hazardous waste in Los Angeles County: Research on the environment] ]

University of Colorado, Boulder

A 2007 study by the University of Colorado at Boulder showed that although the average black or Hispanic resident of a major U.S. city lives in a more polluted part of town than the average white person, the levels of inequality vary widely between cities. The study found that black/white environmental inequality levels were highest in Orlando, Florida, Norfolk, Virginia, Louisville, Kentucky, and Portland, Oregon, and weakest in Baltimore, Maryland, Las Vegas, Nevada, Boston, Massachusetts, and Nassau and Suffolk Counties, New York Urban minority communities may also face environmental racism in the form of parks that are smaller, less accessible and of poorer quality than those in more affluent or white areas in some cities.Bullard, Robert D. and Wright, Beverly H. "Environmentalism and the Politics of Equity: Emergent Trends in the Black Community." Mid-American Review of Sociology 12, pp. 21-37, 1987] Brown, Angela [http://www.berkeleydaily.org/text/article.cfm?issue=11-13-07&storyID=28458 Minority Communities Need More Parks, Report Says] , The Berkeley Daily Planet] This may have an indirect impact on health since young people have fewer places to play and adults have fewer opportunities for exercise." [http://www.berkeleydaily.org/text/article.cfm?issue=11-13-07&storyID=28458 Minority Communities Need More Parks, Report Says] " by By Angela Rowen The Berkeley Daily Planet]

outhern United States

According to a 1993 study done by Seema Arora and Timothy Cason, it appears that race is an especially influential factor determining toxic releases in the Southern United States. "This result seems confined to nonurban areas, which contain high concentrations of minority residents mainly in the South." As a result of this finding, Arora and Cason suggest a solution to this problem of environmental racism. The researchers believe that "raising awareness and providing information to the affected rural, southern communities" could be a significant step in the fight for environmental justice. [Citation
first2=Timothy N.
title=Do Community Characteristics Influence Environmental Outcomes? Evidence from the Toxics Release Inventory
journal=Southern Economic Journal
date=April 1999

="Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty" [ Citation
first1=Robert D., Ph.D.
first2=Paul, Ph.D.
first3=Robin, Ph.D.
first4=Beverly, Ph.D.
title=Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty: 1987-2007
publisher=United Church of Christ
date=March 2007
] =

After publishing its first report entitled "Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States" in 1987, the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice (CRJ) conducted a follow-up study that was published in 2007. The 1987 report focused on the environmental hazards that minority communities face as a result of the placement of landfills, toxic waste sites, etc. near their communities. This report found that when analyzing the factors of race, household income, home value, and "the estimated amount of hazardous waste generated by industry," the most significant factor in determining the location of commercial hazardous waste facilities in the US was race. The report released in 2007, entitled "Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty," concludes that many of these same poor minority communities are still facing the same problems that they did 20 years ago. In 2007, these communities even faced new problems "because of government cutbacks in enforcement, weakening health protection, and dismantling the environmental justice regulatory apparatus."

Some of the 2007 Report Findings:
* National Disparities - Host neighborhoods of commercial hazardous waste facilities are made up of 56% people of color (including African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, and Asians/Pacific Islanders). However, non-host neighborhoods are only made up of 30% people of color.
* Neighborhoods with Clustered Facilities - Neighborhoods with hazardous waste facilities clustered close together have populations with 69% people of color, while neighborhoods without clustered facilities have populations with 51% people of color.
* State Disparities - This problem of environmental racism is not only found in a few states. Rather, out of the 44 states that have hazardous waste facilities, 40 of these states have disproportionately high percentages of people of color living within 3 kilometers of the facilities. The top-ten ranking states with disparities between the percentages of people of color living in host neighborhoods and those living in non-host neighborhoods are Michigan, Nevada, Kentucky, Illinois, Alabama, Tennessee, Washington, Kansas, Arkansas, and California.

Governmental Policies

Policies related to redlining and urban decay can also play a role in environmental racism, and in turn have an impact on public health. For example, sociologist Robert Wallace writes that the pattern of the AIDS outbreak during the 80s was affected by the outcomes of a program of 'planned shrinkage' directed in African-American and Hispanic communities and implemented through systematic denial of municipal services, particularly fire extinguishment resources, which are essential for maintaining urban levels of population density and ensuring community stability. [Wallace, Robert "Urban desertification, public health and public order: 'planned shrinkage,' violent death, substance abuse and AIDS in the Bronx" [http://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov National Center for Biotechnology Information] Soc Sci Med, 1990]


Environmental racism also exists at an international scale. First world corporations often produce dangerous chemicals banned in the United States and export them to developing countries, or send waste materials to countries with relaxed environmental laws.

In one instance, the French aircraft carrier Clemenceau was prohibited from entering Alang, an Indian ship-breaking yard due to a lack of clear documentation about its toxic contents. French President Jacques Chirac ultimately ordered the carrier, which contained tons of hazardous materials including asbestos and PCBs, to return to France. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4588922.stm Stay out, India tells toxic ship] ]

E-waste disposal sites, such as one in Giuyu China, are also subject of controversy. In Giuyu, laborers with no protective clothing regularly burn plastics and circuit boards from old computers. They pour acid on electronic parts to extract silver and gold, and crush cathode ray tubes from computer monitors to remove other valuable metals, such as lead. Nearly 80 percent of children in the E-waste hub of Giuyu, China, suffer from lead poisoning, according to recent reports. [http://www.usnews.com/articles/news/2007/12/20/technologys-morning-after.html?s_cid=rss:technologys-morning-after.html Technology's Morning After - US News and World Report ] ]

Environmental justice

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), "Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people...with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. EPA has this goal for all communities and persons across this Nation. It will be achieved 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 in which to live, learn, and work." [http://www.epa.gov/oecaerth/environmentaljustice/index.html United States EPA: Environmental Justice - Compliance and Enforcement] ]

On 11 February, 1994 President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 12898 [http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/FHLaws/EXO12898.cfm United States Department of Housing and Urban Development - Executive Order 12898] ] , which directed federal agencies to develop strategies to help them identify and address disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of their programs, policies, and activities on minority and low-income populations. Clinton also intended the Order to provide minority and low-income communities with access to public information and opportunities for public participation in matters relating to human health or the environment. [http://www.epa.gov/oecaerth/resources/faqs/ej/index.html United States EPA: Environmental Justice - Frequently Asked Questions] ]

United States organizations working for environmental justice include: Greenaction, Center for Health, Environment and Justice, and the Coalition Against Environmental Racism. In response to public concerns raised by these groups, the United States Environmental Protection Agency created the Office of Environmental Justice in 1992.


According to the United States EPA, the six most prominent examples of environmental hazards include:
* Lead - There is a particularly high concentration of lead problems in low-income and culturally diverse populations, who live in the inner city where the public housing units were built before 1970.
* Waste Sites - Low income, and quite often culturally diverse populations, are more likely than other groups to live near landfills, incinerators, and hazardous waste treatment facilities.
* Air Pollution - 57 percent of all European Americans, 65 percent of African Americans, and 80 percent of Hispanic Americans live in communities that have failed to meet at least one of EPA's ambient air quality standards.
* Pesticides - Approximately 90 percent of the 2 million hired farm workers in the United States are people of color, including Chicano, Puerto Ricans, Caribbean blacks and African Americans. Through direct exposure to pesticides, farm workers and their families may face serious health risks. It has been estimated that as many as 313,000 farm workers in the U.S. may suffer from pesticide-related illnesses each year.
* Wastewater (City Sewers) - Many inner cities still have sewer systems that are not designed to handle storm overflow. As a result, raw sewage may be carried into local rivers and streams during storms, creating a health hazard.
* Wastewater - (Agricultural Runoff) - It is suspected that the increased use of commercial fertilizers and concentrations of animal wastes contribute to the degradation of receiving streams and rivers in rural areas, with communities that are often low income and culturally diverse.


Although it is not always connected to race and can sometimes be generalized by class, gentrification or urban renewal can be connected to environmental racism and residential segregation. Gentrification has historically been defined as higher income newcomers displacing lower income residents from up-and-coming urban neighborhoods. The concept has been understood as reflecting the residential turnover of an area that was predominantly composed of residents of color, to one populated by higher income whites. Yet definitions of gentrification fail to mention this racial component. Critical race theory is used to examine race as an implicit assumption that merits investigation as demographic changes in the U.S. challenge these class-based definitions. Martinez-Cosio,Maria. "Coloring housing changes: Reintroducing race into gentrification" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, TBA, New York, New York City, Aug 11, 2007.]


ee also

* [http://www.epa.gov/oecaerth/environmentaljustice/index.html United States Environmental Protection Agency - Environmental Justice]
*Cancer Alley
*Race and health
*Hawk's Nest incident

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