Environmental and Climate Justice
In the midst of historic Black Lives Matter protests seeking justice for George Floyd and a pandemic that kills more black Americans than any others, it is important to discuss environmental and climate justice as well. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) all over the United States are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change while contributing the least to its causes.
Environmental Justice 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. This goal will be achieved when everyone enjoys:
the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards
equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.
The impacts of climate change and negative environmental health outcomes may not be obvious but impact BIPOC folks at a higher rate and with greater severity than others. For example, the rate of asthma is 36% higher in African Americans in the U.S. and strongly linked to air pollution. “71% of African Americans live in counties in violation of federal air pollution standards, as compared to 58% of non-Hispanic whites” (EPA).
Goals: Age Group: 6-12
Learn about environmental and climate justice
Supplies: Time: 30-45 minutes.
Paper or notebooks for filling out the table
Watch this video featuring the “Father of Environmental Justice:”
Now, read this short article on the Detroit Incinerator and its subsequent shutdown.
Answer the reflection questions below.
Why do you think that black, indigenous, and other folks of color are subjected to environmental inequality?
Is it fair that BIPOC folks are subjected to more environmental inequities compared to white and/or wealthy Americans? How does this make you feel?
What environmental justice issues does Dr. Bullard discuss in the video? What social justice issues does Dr. Bullard discuss in the video? How are they connected?
If you’d like, draw this table in your notebook or paper and fill it out.
Have you witnessed any of these environmental injustices in your community? If so, how has this affected your community?
(An example could be an industrial site or waste site in your community and increases in health issues, such as the emission from the Marathon Refinery and high rates of cancer in the surrounding communities.)
How can we reduce the amount of environmental injustices in your community?
Think about the campaign by Breathe Free Detroit and how similar strategies could be used successfully.
Consider the Black Lives Matter/Justice for George Floyd protests. How have these protests created positive change? How could similar actions lead to environmental justice reforms?