Climate Change is Environmental Racism

Environmental Racism and Its Impact on Communities

This term may be a bit confusing to understand. As most people will identify both terms separately. But they are intertwined on a much larger scale than you think. So, first, let’s break down what the term “Environmental Racism” actually means and why it needs to be understood by all. Environmental Racism is a term that was coined in the environmental justice movement. Furthermore, its origin lies in the United States throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Generally, the term is used to describe environmental injustice that occurs within a racial context, both in practice and policy.

Whether it’s residents living along the polluted Cooum River in Chennai, India. Or Louisiana’s petrochemical-dense Cancer Alley. Even Thailand’s toxic hot spot, Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate. Sadly, children living near a battery recycling factory in Naucalpan De Juárez, Mexico are under grave threat. Mainly, environmental racism is the culprit in all these incidents that are increasing. Additionally, environmental racism has long exposed poor people and people of color to dangerously high levels of lead, contaminated water, and bad air. These communities suffer from high incidences of related ailments, such as cancer, asthma, and other health problems.

Normally, groups may ignore the pattern of indigenous communities and other minority groups being marginally affected by various factors. Like discrimination on the basis of race, poverty, caste, and religion living on the frontline of the pollution crisis. But the reality is that because of this marginalization, mitigating the impacts of pollution is often not a priority for government action. Mainly, connecting the two concepts can help advocates strengthen their environmental injustice work by fighting the root causes of discrimination. And ensuring that marginalized communities have a voice in decision making as that policy will ultimately affect the environment they reside in.

Origin of the term” Environmental Racism”

An African American civil rights leader, Benjamin Chavis, coined the term “environmental racism” in 1982. He described it as “racial discrimination in environmental policy-making, the enforcement of regulations and laws, the deliberate targeting of communities of color for toxic waste facilities, the official sanctioning of the life-threatening presence of poisons and pollutants in our communities, and the history of excluding people of color from the leadership of the ecology movements”.

A comprehensive definition of environmental racism comes from Robert Bullard in his book Dumping in Dixie.

Bullard defines environmental racism as “any policy, practice or directive that differentially affects or disadvantages (where intended or unintended) individuals, groups or communities based on race.”

A landmark 2007 study by academic Dr. Robert Bullard – the “father of environmental justice” –found

 “race to be more important than socioeconomic status in predicting the location of the nation’s commercial hazardous waste facilities”.

He proved that African American children were five times more likely to have lead poisoning from proximity to waste than Caucasian children. Additionally, even black Americans making $50-60,000 a year were more likely to live in polluted areas than their white counterparts making $10,000. In the UK, meanwhile, a government report found that black British children are under threat of up to 30% more air pollution than white children.

Causes of Environmental Racism

Racial Disparities
Racial Disparities Statistics

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The disparities are entirely due to power dynamics. In a study done by Nicholas Carnes in his book The Cash Ceiling, he broke down how, in 2018, millionaires make up only three percent of the public. Shockingly, yet they control all three branches of the federal government. While more than fifty percent of U.S. citizens hold working-class jobs. Surprisingly, less than two percent of members have held a blue-collar job before their Congressional career. In addition, no member of the working class has gone on to become a United States President or Supreme Court Justice. Most were millionaires before getting elected or appointed to the position.

This disparity also relies on race. In a study done by Robin DiAngelo in White Fragility, she showed that in 2016, 90 percent of Congress is white, and 96 percent of U.S. Governors are white. In addition, the top-10 richest Americans are also white.

This tends to be imbibed into policies, which is one way that environmental racism is exacerbated. This situation is simple. When government officials or other individuals or groups in power are faced with the decision of where to place the newest hazardous waste facility or dumpsite. You guessed it, they typically do not want it to be placed in their backyard. And instead, they decide to place these hazardous waste facilities and dumpsites in communities filled with people who do not look like them. Even falling under the same tax bracket is a prerequisite for their choices.

Impacts of Environmental Racism

Environmental Racism
Environmental Racism

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The inequity is supported by a huge body of research. A 2012 article in Environmental Health Perspectives found that overall levels of exposure to particulate matter (such as acids, organic chemicals, metals, and soil and dust particles) were higher for people of color than for white people.

A 2016 study published by Environment International found an association between long-term exposure to a pollutant and racial segregation.

And in 2018, a report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that people of color are much more likely to live near polluters and breathe polluted air than white people. Furthermore, people in poverty are under increasing threat from more fine particulate matter than people living above the poverty line.

Environmental racism refers to a disproportionate impact on minority group neighborhoods which are primarily housing people of color. Mainly, encompassing the members from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Furthermore, they are dealing with a disproportionate number of hazards. Mainly, including toxic waste that facilitates garbage dumps. Additionally, other sources of environmental pollution and particularly foul odors lower the quality of life. Mainly, this can lead to different diseases and cancers. Because of this, as the fight over climate crisis worsens, minority communities will be disproportionally under threat a greater scale.

Worryingly, environmental racism impacts the health of the communities affected by poor environments. A number of factors that can cause health problems. Mainly, including exposure to hazardous chemical toxins in landfills and rivers.

Dealing with Environmental Racism

Environmental Racism
Environmental Racism

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In terms of combating environmental racism, procedural justice helps to reduce the opportunities for powerful forces. Mainly, as often-corrupt states or private entities dictate the entire decision-making process. Through this process, we put some power back into the hands of those who will be directly affected by the decisions being made.

Furthermore, disentangling the disparate effects of poverty and race can be a challenge – but mounting evidence points in one direction. Evidently, race is often a more reliable indicator of proximity to pollution than income alone.

A 2018 study by Environmental Protection Agency scientists found that people of color on average faced a 28 percent higher health burden compared to the general population. Mainly, the reason is living in proximity to facilities emitting particulate pollution like soot. Especially, for Black Americans, the findings were especially troubling, with a 54 percent greater health burden reported on the community.

Mainly, community wealth often plays a central role in determining environmental policies. Particularly regarding land use, zoning, construction permits, and regulation enforcement. But sadly, the result is that low-income families of every color are suffering the effects of more pollution than their more affluent peers.

But even when wealth is taken into account, researchers still find a greater correlation between race and exposure to environmental hazards.

 Take action to combat the problem

Take action against Environmental Racism Source
Take action against Environmental Racism

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The environmental justice movement challenges injustice and unequal treatment of people of color, working to raise awareness.  Especially, with a focus on ending the inequities that mean Black Americans breathe 56 percent more pollution than they produce. Similarly, the Latin community breathes 63 percent more pollution – while Whites breathe 17 percent less.

In the US, the movement was born in the 1970s, when Black activists in Warren County, North Carolina organized to fight toxic dumping in their community. Secondly, around the same time, in Houston, Texas, activists like Dr. Robert Bullard began researching and challenging racist policies. This led to 82 percent of the city’s trash being thrown into black communities. Despite the fact that black residents made up only 25 percent of the population.

Since then, the movement has continued to grow, fighting for safe water and justice in Flint, Michigan, clean air in the South Bronx’s Asthma Alley, and an end to the urban oil fields in Los Angeles linked to dangerous birth outcomes. Tragically, the list goes on.

Mainly, fighting environmental racism means doing what is fair and morally right. As a movement, we have an obligation to act to dismantle the structures subjecting people of color disproportionately to environmental health hazards. Surprisingly, many of them are the very same pollutants driving the climate crisis.

To enforce and start meaningful work, we need to start listening to the communities already living with fossil fuel pollution. Mainly, the families hit first and worst by climate change. And by understanding what the crisis means for them, we can work together for truly just and equitable solutions.

Because the only way to solve the climate crisis is by working together.

How can you help?

Take a stand against Environmental Racism
Take a stand against Environmental Racism

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Whether we say climate justice, climate equity, the intersection of climate change and people, or the social impacts of climate change, one thing is clear. The business owners have a role to play in addressing the structural inequities that cause low-income populations and communities of color to bear the brunt of the climate crisis.

Mainly, extreme heat and storms, sea-level rise, intense wildfires — climate change may threaten everyone, but many BIPOC communities are more vulnerable to climate impacts. These communities also suffer disproportionately from the broader socio-economic impacts of climate change, such as disrupted access to social services and increased energy costs. So much so that race is the most salient indicator in the U.S. of how the climate crisis affects people. This includes poor air quality due to proximity to polluting facilities such as fossil fuel power plants and refineries. And this compounds the impact of crises such as COVID-19.

Mainly, show commitment to show up and stand with our partners, colleagues, employees, friends. Specifically, nearly 30,000 Climate Reality Leaders. And all people who experience social injustice and racism of any kind.

And it’s already too late to reverse many of the catastrophic effects of the climate crisis. What’s true is that things are on track to get much worse over the course of this century. And if we’re going to stop those things from happening, society is going to have to start hitting some important deadlines fas

It’s really clear: we are facing the real possibility that the climate crisis could steal the chance of a better tomorrow from people all over the world. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Click here to take action

Learn more about becoming a trained Climate Reality Leader, and be the voice of climate justice in your community.

You can click on the link above and take the first step towards being a climate reality leader.

Be an example to lead the fight against  environmental racism and stand your ground by spreading awareness.Be an active part of your community to make a difference to lead the fight in the climate crisis.


Are we running out of time to stop climate change? Nearly a year has passed since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that limiting global warming to the 1.5-degree Celsius (2.6 degrees Fahrenheit) mark by the end of the century. Mainly, a goal set to stave off the worst impacts of climate change — “would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

Some politicians and writers have thrown their hands up in the air and argued that it’s too late and that human civilization is simply not up to the task. But others, meanwhile, took the report as a call to arms. Mainly, reframing one of its points as a political organizing message. We have only 12 years to stop climate change, and the clock is ticking. (A year later, we’re down to 10.)

But the full picture is both more and less dire than a slogan can capture. We can’t stop climate change — because it’s already here.

You can take action as an individual by being a climate reality community leader in your vicinity. This way, you can become a part of the solution instead of the problem. Let me know how you as an individual will make a difference or are already in your vicinity in the comment section? Be a part of the environmental justice movement and safeguard the environment for future generations.

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