Category: Environmental justice

Webinar: Environmental Justice and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

Aug 26, 2021, 1:30-3 pm CDT
Register here.

The webinar will highlight content from the Promising Practices for EJ Methodologies in NEPA Reviews report of the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (now the EJ Interagency Council). The webinar will also include a tribal perspective on the value and importance of NEPA. This webinar builds upon the NEPA and Tribes as Cooperating Agencies webinar held on July 21, 2021.

Panelists

  • Tribal Government or Indigenous Peoples Presenter (TBD)
  • Stan Buzzelle, Attorney Advisor, Office of Environmental Justice, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Danny Gogal, Tribal and Indigenous Peoples Program Manager, Office of Environmental Justice, U.S. EPA (Facilitator)

A link for the webinar will be emailed to registered participants a couple of days before the event.

Please note that the webinar is planned to be recorded and is expected to be available on the EPA website a few weeks after the webinar.

For questions about this webinar or the EPA EJ Webinar Series for Tribes and Indigenous Peoples please contact Danny Gogal, Office of Environmental Justice, gogal.danny@epa.gov.

Webinar: Pollution & prejudice: Moving from redlining to revitalization

Aug 19, 2021, noon-2 pm CDT
Register here.

Join this webinar, hosted by the California Environmental Protection Agency, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and US Environmental Protection Agency to learn more about:

  • CalEPA’s Pollution and Prejudice project, which explores the connection between historic and current land use practices and the persistence of environmental injustice across cities throughout California
  • Stories from the ‘other side of the tracks’: Hear how these historic injustices contribute to current environmental burdens from California’s environmental justice leaders in rural areas, cities, and tribal communities
  • What transformational changes are needed to ensure healthy and safe communities for all, from nationally recognized environmental justice leaders
  • How you can be a part of the change: Contribute to interactive discussions and share stories and ideas on how to push for transformational change

Biden has a plan to remove some freeways. Will it make cities more healthy?

Read the full story in the Los Angeles Times.

Mandela Parkway, a four-lane boulevard enhanced by a median with trees and a curving footpath, stretches along a 24-block section of West Oakland. It’s the fruit of a grassroots neighborhood campaign to block reconstruction of an elevated freeway leveled by the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 and reimagine the thoroughfare to replace it.

Since the parkway’s 2005 completion, 168 units of affordable housing have sprung up along its route. The air is measurably freer of pollutants than it was when the Cypress Freeway ran through the area.

federal report heralded the project as the type of socially minded renovation that can make appropriate, if partial, amends for the devastation wrought on low-income neighborhoods by the freeway-building boom of earlier decades.

The smoke comes every year. Sugar companies say the air is safe.

Read the full story at Pro Publica.

To harvest more than half of America’s cane sugar, billion-dollar companies set fire to fields, a money-saving practice that’s being banned by other countries. Some residents say they struggle to breathe, so we started tracking air quality.

What’s the best way to help the climate and people, too? Home improvement

Read the full story at NPR.

Workmen have invaded Flora Dillard’s house on the east side of Cleveland. There’s plastic over everything and no place to sit, but Dillard doesn’t seem to mind. “A couple of days of inconvenience is nothing, compared to the results that you get,” she says.

She’ll benefit, and so might the climate. The workers have plugged cracks around the foundation and rerouted an air vent to reduce the risk that mold will form. They’re insulating the drafty upstairs bedroom, which was so cold that Dillard had resorted to multiple electric space heaters this past winter. They also discovered and fixed a gas leak. “I could have blew up,” Dillard says. “Me and my grandbabies and my brother who’s here visiting.”

She didn’t pay for any of this. She can’t afford to. But thanks to government and utility help, her house soon should be more comfortable, safer and cheaper to heat. She’ll burn less fuel, cutting down on the amount of greenhouse gases she sends into the air.

Acting United States Attorney Jacquelyn M. Kasulis announces formation of environmental justice team in the office’s Civil Division

Read the news release.

Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, announced today the creation of the Environmental Justice Team.  The Environmental Justice Team, comprised of seven Civil Division Assistant U.S. Attorneys, including the Civil Division Chief of Environmental Litigation, reinforces the Office’s focus on protecting the rights of residents of the Eastern District of New York who are disproportionately burdened by environmental and health hazards.  The Office has responsibility for the enforcement of our nation’s laws in the Eastern District of New York, which encompasses three of the five boroughs of New York City – Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island – and Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island. The Eastern District of New York encompasses approximately eight million people.  

Low-income neighborhoods have fewer trees. Here’s why that’s a problem

Read the full story in Fast Company.

The first nationwide Tree Equity Score data could serve as a guide for leaders and residents to advocate for more tree shade in lower-income neighborhoods.

Webinar: Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) for Communities

July 8, 2021 1pm CDT
Register here.

Did you know it’s easier than ever to find out about toxic chemical releases from industrial and federal facilities in and near U.S. communities? You can use the TRI Search and TRI Search Plus tools, accessible at the bottom of the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) homepage.

Join EPA for an overview of the TRI Program and the data EPA collects under Section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know (EPCRA), a demonstration of the newest TRI tools, a case study about TRI use in North Charleston, South Carolina, and a discussion between participants and TRI Program staff.

  • 2:00-2:45 pm: EPA Presentation
  • 2:45-3:30 pm: Questions and Answers Session

Don’t forget to bring your questions for a Q&A session following the presentation!

More about TRI Search and Search Plus

EPA recently redesigned these user-friendly tools to include simpler interfaces, additional search options, enhanced mapping capability, charts, graphs, tables, and print-friendly features for producing colorful handouts that are particularly useful for highlighting environmental concerns in environmental justice communities.

New bill would tax polluters, redirect funds to impacted communities

Read the full story at Smart Cities Dive.

New legislation would charge fees to large corporations responsible for greenhouse gas emissions and use the money to fund environmental justice initiatives and help communities reliant on fossil fuels transition away from them.

The Save Our Future Act, introduced by U.S. Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, would use those fees to invest $255 billion over 10 years into existing energy affordability, pollution reduction, business development, career training, and tribal assistance programs to further environmental justice in communities that have faced underinvestment. It would also provide checks to low- and middle-income families and $10 billion in block grants to states and tribes to help defray expenses related to climate change.

The bill would invest another roughly $120 billion over 10 years to help communities traditionally reliant on fossil fuels with economic development, infrastructure, environmental remediation and assistance to local and tribal governmentsIt also would provide five years of wage replacement, health, retirement and education benefits for fossil fuel workers in those communities who lose their jobs.

As more climate migrants cross borders seeking refuge, laws will need to adapt

Migrants hoping to reach the distant U.S. border walk along a highway in Guatemala in January 2021. AP Photo/Sandra Sebastian

by Katharine M. Donato (Georgetown University), Amanda Carrico (University of Colorado Boulder), and Jonathan M. Gilligan, (Vanderbilt University)

Climate change is upending people’s lives around the world, but when droughts, floods or sea level rise force them to leave their countries, people often find closed borders and little assistance.

Part of the problem is that today’s laws, regulations and international agreements about migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees offer few, if any, special protection to those forced to leave because of climate conditions.

National laws focus primarily on violence and conflict as drivers of forced migration and rarely consider environmental stress. In fact, no nation’s immigration system currently has environmental criteria for admission. International agreements such as the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and the Global Compact for Refugees mention the impacts of natural disasters and environmental degradation, but they are not legally binding.

The Biden administration has started exploring ways to identify and assist people who are displaced by climate change. But climate-driven migration is complicated.

Often, the environmental stressors associated with climate change are only one factor pushing people to migrate. For example, many migrants from Guatemala trying to enter the U.S. have struggled under severe droughts or storms, but many also fear crime and violence if they move to cities in their homeland to find work. Others are seeking opportunities that they and their children don’t have.

As experts in migration and climate risk, we have been studying how climate change is displacing people within their own countries and often pushing them to cross borders. Here are some of the key challenges the Biden administration faces and reasons this effort can’t wait.

How many climate migrants are there?

No one knows exactly how many climate migrants exist now or how many people will become climate migrants in the future, but current estimates are high.

In the coming years, the rapid pace of climate change combined with a global population nearing 8 billion people is likely to create unprecedented stress around the world. Recent studies show that dry spells and drought are already associated with increased migration.

As that stress intensifies, the need to escape hazards and threats is replacing the desire to seek opportunity as the key driver of international migration.

Two women carry small children and water jugs across a dry, empty landscape
Drought displaced hundreds of thousands of people in Ethiopia in 2016. The vast majority stayed within the country’s borders. UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Tesfaye, CC BY-NC-ND

Disasters caused more than 23 million people a year to relocate over the past decade, the majority of them within their own countries, according to the World Meteorological Organization’s State of the Global Climate Report. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that this will increase as global warming intensifies. The World Bank projects that climate change will drive 143 million people in Latin America, Africa and South Asia alone to leave their homes by 2050. Many come from poor regions that have contributed little to global warming.

Legal definitions of ‘refugee’ are narrow

Until recently, scholars identified wars and conflict as principal sources of displacement.

Starting in the 1980s, some scholars began using the term “environmental refugee” for those forced to leave their homes because of disruptions related to human or naturally produced environmental events, such as desertification, deforestation, land degradation and rising sea levels.

But the international definition of refugee doesn’t include climate change.

Miguel Martin sits with his 7-year-old son at a migrant shelter in Mexico with other people sitting around them.
Drought has devastated crops in parts of Guatemala in recent years, pushing some people to try to find a better life in the U.S. AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills

The U.N.’s 1951 Refugee Convention establishes the obligations and responsibilities its member nations have to refugees. It defines refugees as people who are forced to flee their homelands because of fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.

In contrast, international law does not clearly define migrants or climate migrants. Thus, all migrants are subject to the immigration laws of their destination countries. Since these immigration laws also lack environmental criteria for accepting migrants, climate migrants often have nowhere to go.

Changing views of climate migration

While climate migrants are not legally considered refugees, many are highly vulnerable.

Lacking resources, climate migrants are likely to be poorer than most other international migrants. This may put them at a disadvantage as more countries’ policies scrutinize the economic prospects of immigrants before permitting them entry.

Yet climate migrants do not fit cleanly into categories of those who migrate voluntarily and those who are displaced by factors beyond their control.

A woman and boy stand outside a home on stilts with cooking pots on the beach where water has risen.
Rising sea levels are making it harder to live in the low-lying islands of Kiribati. Salt water has infiltrated cropland and fresh water supplies, but for many people, migration is impossible. Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images

Take the case of Ioane Teitiota, a man from the island nation of Kiribati who sought refugee status in New Zealand in 2013. He was ultimately deported on the grounds that his life wasn’t in immediate danger in his homeland. But while Kiribati isn’t underwater yet, it is under stress as habitable land becomes more scarce and water supplies become contaminated by saltwater.

The U.N. Human Rights Commission rejected Teitiota’s appeal in 2020, but it also warned that governments could be in violation of U.N. agreements if they send people back to situations where climate change has created life-threatening risks.

Rethinking the role of disasters

Climate change and other environmental stresses have increasingly become drivers of displacement, but in ways that do not fit neatly within the bright dichotomy that law and policy use to distinguish between refugees and other people on the move.

We believe it’s time for countries worldwide to rethink the role of disasters and climate change in migration, recognize the rights of those displaced by environmental causes and reform international and national laws and policies, which are out of date with what’s known today about climate change and displacement. Nations may be reluctant to offer what may seem like a new portal for migrants, but evidence suggests those numbers will only rise, and countries need to be prepared.

Katharine M. Donato, Donald G. Herzberg Professor of International Migration, and Director, Institute for the Study of International Migration, Georgetown University; Amanda Carrico, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, University of Colorado Boulder, and Jonathan M. Gilligan, Associate Professor of Earth & Environmental Sciences, Vanderbilt University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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