The Environment is a Social Justice Issue
By Natasha Mayer
Since today is World Environment Day, I’ve been thinking about how the environment is connected to social justice. Our planet and the people living on it are inextricably linked. And when the environment is suffering, people with fewer resources bear the brunt of the negative impact. Droughts and water shortages cause girls in Africa to drop out of school and spend their days fetching water for their families. Natural disasters displace families who don’t have the resources to evacuate somewhere safe and who can’t afford to rebuild their homes and lives. Diseases such as malaria (which the World Health Organization has linked to climate change) strike poor communities who can’t afford the preventative medications.
In the United States, people of color live in communities often with lower air quality than their white counterparts. Landfills and hazardous waste sites are located primarily in poor neighborhoods where people of color reside. Members of the Navajo Nation, many of whom don’t have indoor plumbing, are forced to drink water that is not only polluted, but contains radioactive uranium particles. The primarily Black residents of Flint, Michigan still don’t have access to clean running water in most homes, in a crisis that’s been ongoing since 2014.
Close to home and worldwide, communities of color and communities living in poverty experience outsized impact of environmental breakdown. We need to care for the environment, as well as for the disadvantaged communities affected. Environmental justice is social justice.