Shea Diaz is on the Georgetown Environmental Law Review. This post is part of the Environmental Law Review Syndicate.
In the United States, poor people and people of color experience higher cancer rates, asthma rates, mortality rates, and overall poorer health than their affluent and white counterparts. The Environmental Justice Movement (EJM) links these health disparities to higher concentrations of environmental pollution sources in these communities. This disproportionate exposure to environmental harms in low-income, minority communities is known as “environmental injustice.” Since the EJM’s inception in the 1960s, empirical evidence of environmental injustice along racial and socioeconomic lines has been produced time and again. Vulnerable populations, however, continue to bear a disproportionate burden of society’s environmental harms, as illustrated in the recent water crises in Flint, Michigan, and St. Joseph, Louisiana.
A commitment to eradicating environmental injustice requires a nuanced understanding of its causes. EJM activists often highlight corporations’ role in creating environmental injustices, arguing that firms actively discriminate against racial minorities when making decisions about where pollution sources will be placed. More recently, however, many in the movement have recognized the causal complexity of environmental injustice.