Environmental racism and justice

Read the full story from the National Center for Institutional Diversity.

In this Spark series we learn from scholars writing from multiple positionalities: those living in environmental justice communities, scholars based in traditional academic settings working in partnership with environmental justice communities, scholars from environmental justice communities working within traditional academic settings, and those creating innovative local solutions while experiencing environmental collapse. The series encompasses work that employs multiple formats, takes an explicitly anti-racist approach to inform public discussion, and lifts up leadership from those historically marginalized from decision making processes.

What is environmental racism? Injustices throughout history and today

Read the full story at Treehugger.

Environmental racism is defined as the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color. Environmental justice is the movement against environmental racism—one focused on minimizing environmental impacts on all people, advocating for fairer environmental policies and lawmaking, and installing greater protections for BIPOC communities.

Environmental racism has encompassed many types of environmental issues and discriminations that still persist today. Incidents of environmental racism might be widely publicized, such as the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. On the other hand, many cases are not as well-known and sometimes framed outside of the scope of racism, such as disproportionate heat deaths.

Here, we’ll review some key examples throughout history and what is being done today to address environmental racism.

Air pollution more likely to harm people of color in Wisconsin, especially in Milwaukee, study finds

Read the full story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

People of color in Wisconsin are more likely to be exposed to harmful air pollution than white people, creating the third-largest disparity in the country, according to a state environmental advocacy group. 

Clean Wisconsin analyzed data from a recent study from the University of Illinois, which calculated the exposure to fine particulate matter in the air among different racial-ethnic groups. The study, overall, found that people of color are exposed to more particulate air pollution than white residents. 

In Wisconsin, analysts found one of the largest racial disparities between the impacts of dangerous particulate matter. 

Chicago planted trees at a higher rate in wealthier, whiter neighborhoods over the past decade, Tribune investigation finds

Read the full story in the Chicago Tribune.

Over the past decade the city has backtracked on ambitious goals made years ago to provide residents with trees, particularly on the South and West sides where researchers say trees are needed the most, a Tribune investigation found.

The failures come as research shows trees blunt the warmer, wetter effects of climate change in the Great Lakes region. Fewer trees in neighborhoods can mean hotter temperatures, more flooding, dirtier air and higher electric bills — all of which can affect mental and physical health.

The city’s half million street trees, those often found on the strip of grass between roadways and sidewalks, make up a part of the overall canopy coverage, along with trees in parks and yards. How the city manages these trees can directly affect residents’ quality of life.

Tribune analyzed the rate at which street trees were planted per mile of streets from 2011 through 2021, finding higher planting rates in wealthier, whiter neighborhoods deemed less of a priority.

In the Metro East, residents battle raw sewage, flooding — and indifference

Read the full story from St. Louis Public Radio.

In the Metro East city of Cahokia Heights, which includes the former municipality of Centreville, sewer and stormwater systems are often so full that raw sewage seeps into residents’ yards.

“You’d think we live in a Third World country, the way the city don’t care,” said William McNeal, who has lived there for more than 45 years.

The foundation of his house continues to shift because of flood damage. He can’t drink water from the tap, and he regularly has to scare off snakes and mice from the home.

“Where I live, a ditch runs down the side of my house. So all of the water that comes up from Belleville, from all the other places, runs down the side of my house with the trash and stuff, and it sits in my yard [and] goes under my house, and you can’t get it out,” he said. “And the raw sewage too. We couldn’t sit outside because of the smell of the raw sewage … when the sun come out.”

But McNeal said he can’t afford to leave.

And although McNeal and other members of Centreville Citizens for Change have experienced severe flooding for two decades, officials have done little to mitigate the problem — or to even find out what’s causing it.

EPA launches civil rights inquiry into Louisiana agencies

Read the full story from E&E News.

EPA will probe alleged racial discrimination by two Louisiana agencies in a predominantly Black area, a senior official confirmed this week.

The agency’s External Civil Rights Compliance Office will investigate both the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality’s handling of its air pollution control program and whether the Louisiana Department of Health is failing to inform residents of St. John the Baptist Parish about health threats posed by hazardous air emissions from a local chemical plant and other sources, Lilian Dorka, the office’s director, wrote in letters to Earthjustice and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Redlining means 45 million Americans are breathing dirtier air, 50 years after it ended

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

Decades of federal housing discrimination did not only depress home values, lower job opportunities and spur poverty in communities deemed undesirable because of race. It’s why 45 million Americans are breathing dirtier air today, according to a landmark study released Wednesday.

The practice known as redlining was outlawed more than a half-century ago, but it continues to impact people who live in neighborhoods that government mortgage officers shunned for 30 years because people of color and immigrants lived in them.

The analysis, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters, found that, compared with White people, Black and Latino Americans live with more smog and fine particulate matter from cars, trucks, buses, coal plants and other nearby industrial sources in areas that were redlined. Those pollutants inflame human airways, reduce lung function, trigger asthma attacks and can damage the heart and cause strokes.

‘This is unacceptable’: EPA chief visits failing sewage systems in Alabama Black Belt

Read the full story at AL.com.

On the eve of the Selma Jubilee, commemorating the “Bloody Sunday” march that helped catalyze support for the Voting Rights Act 57 years ago, the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency toured Alabama’s Black Belt to witness a different kind of struggle: the battle for clean water and basic sanitation.

Interactive web series explores environmental racism

Read the full story from Harvard University.

When it comes to exposures to environmental hazards, people of color and low-income groups tend to get the short end of the stick. They are more likely than other groups to live close to highways or power plants; to live in housing with lead, pest, or other problems; and to be exposed to hazardous chemicals in personal care products.

A new series of web resources titled Environmental Racism in Greater Boston, produced by experts at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, tells a multifaceted and accessible story, including interactive data visualizations, about disparities in environmental exposures from the regional level to the individual level.

When home is a toxic hot spot

Read the full story at ProPublica.

More than a thousand people talked to ProPublica about living in hot spots for cancer-causing air pollution. Most never got a warning from the EPA. They are rallying neighbors, packing civic meetings and signing petitions for reform.