Environmental justice is an often overlooked issue of our daily lives, yet we are constantly interacting with the environment around us and shaping its form for the future. Environmental justice is defined as 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 (Mohai, Pellow, & Roberts, 2009). Environmental justice will only be fully achieved when all citizens across our nation are provided with 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” (Environmental Justice, EPA). Our environment can be defined as “Where we live, work and play but also where we worship which is something very important that we need to take into account…” (Leal, 2000). Environmental protection groups have often been criticized for their overcompensation of the preservation of land and natural features while largely ignoring human social justice and equality issues. Environmental justice seeks to protect human life and is more focused on making the environment equal and catered to each individual, rather than protecting the defining physical means of an environment. The harmful toxins and environmental issues that are present within our nation are often unequally distributed in a way that largely affects minorities and lower-income citizens. This is an injustice which thousands of, if not millions of, Americans must deal with in their daily lives. The mediated view of environmentalists is that they’re often outdoorsy, backpacking, nature lovers but seldom represented is the sharp contrast of environmental injustice faced by so many Americans. Most who actively involve themselves in environmental justice are usually geared towards helping minorities and those of lesser income, but environmental injustice can be present in an town of American, regardless of income or racial demographics. Environmental injustice is committed by various companies and organizations everyday, and we must bring prominence to this issue that silently affects us all.
One aspect of environmental injustice that particularly stands out is the vast power of the media (or lack thereof), in regards to reporting upon environmental ailments and disasters. Many times major environmental disasters occur with little to no knowledge of the event in the public sphere. The citizens of the United States are simply unaware of the many oil spills, fracking mishaps, or the sheer magnitude at which these events disrupt our environment. Often the sources of environmental injustice are the corporations and governments who site questionable facilities among those least able to be informed about, or to stop, them (Shrader-Frechette). The citizens of The United States deserve protection and knowledge about nuclear testing, hazardous waste disposal, and other functions that directly threaten our health and well-being. Unless we are directly affected and cognizant of an environmental injustice it’s far too easy for these massive events to slip by unnoticed in the public media sphere and this is simply unacceptable.
Curing all of environmental justice through one resource is quite impossible, but it is possible that we can begin to provide justice to certain issues within the field. Within the past few decades environmental justice has been at somewhat of a “Stalemate” (Mohai, Pellow, & Roberts, 2009) at a federal governmental level and much of the forward progress has been made by or other institutions. As suggested by Mohai, Pellow, & Roberts, more research could provide more answers for environmental justice, but I believe that visibility of the issue within the public sphere is just as important. Improving the visibility of man-made environmental disasters and displaying the environments people must live in, through media, can bring rise to the ideals of environmental justice as a whole and may be a way to introduce environmental injustices to the average citizen. If a problem is not seen it can often lie dormant; However when a disturbing problem is seen, it can bring cause for change within an individual and ultimately may shift the ideology of a nation.
Mohai, P., Pellow, D., & Roberts, J. (2009). Environmental Justice. Annual Reviews.
EPA. Environmental Justice. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2015, from http://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/
Adamson, J., & Stein, R. (2000). Environmental Justice a Roundtable Discussion.Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, 155-170.
Shrader-Frechette, K. (2003). Environmental Justice: Creating Equity, Reclaiming Democracy.