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Environmental Justice in Minority and Low-Income Communities in the US and Canada What is Environmental Justice?

The concept of “environmental justice” originated as a social movement in the 1980s in the United States. It is a movement dedicated to insulating vulnerable communities, such as the poor and minorities, from environmental threats. Movement members want to make sure that those affected have a voice in environmental policy (Lynch, 32). The environmental justice movement seeks to guarantee everyone’s access to a safe and healthy environment, promote everyone’s voice in choices that have an impact on that environment, and guarantee equitable distribution of available resources. However, there is no silver bullet for solving the problem of environmental injustice. Each community will have different needs and concerns related to environmental justice, and the solutions that are effective in one community may not be effective in another (Figueroa, 466). The key is to listen to each community’s specific concerns and develop tailored solutions that address them. One example of an environmental justice issue is pollution from industrial facilities. Pollution from factories and other industrial businesses can cause severe health problems, damage natural resources, and create negative social impacts on communities of color. Climate change is also an issue that affects everyone, but it disproportionately impacts low-income and minority populations who are more likely to live in areas that are particularly vulnerable to its effects. As a result, these communities often experience. There is a need for environmental justice in the world in order to preserve the world for future generations.

What is justice? How does justice apply to the environment?

Justice in the context of the environment may refer to the fair and equitable treatment of all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status, in regard to environmental protection and the distribution of environmental resources. This could mean ensuring that everyone has access to clean air and water, for example, or that natural resources are used in a way that does not damage or endanger them. It may refer to the moral obligation of humans to care for and protect our planet and its inhabitants. This includes recognizing that humans are part of the natural world and taking responsibility for our actions. We must work towards creating a sustainable future for all by caring for both the environment and ourselves. Ultimately, achieving environmental justice will require a concerted effort from everyone involved, from government leaders to individual citizens (Lynch 87). It will require us to look beyond our own personal interests and come together as a community to address the challenges we face. Only by working together can we ensure that all people have a say in the future of our planet and that the environment is treated fairly and equitably.

The term environmental justice has been used in the United States to refer to a fair and sustainable relationship between people and their environment. It is an attempt to redress the historical injustices that have resulted from colonial expansion, pollution of indigenous lands, and other activities. It may also refer to a fair and sustainable relationship between people and their environment. To address environmental justice, we must first understand how environmental racism has played out historically in the United States (Figueroa 450). It is about ensuring everyone has a voice when it comes to decisions that affect our planet. It is about recognizing that not all communities experience environmental threats and challenges in the same way and that not all members of marginalized groups have the same access to resources or the same ability to fight against pollution (Lynch 34). It is a fundamental principle of American law that says people should not be treated differently because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, or economic status. Environmental justice protects communities from environmental hazards and injuries. To address environmental justice, we must first understand how environmental racism has played out historically in the United States.

How does environmental justice affect us? Why is it important?

When it comes to the creation, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies, environmental justice refers to the equitable treatment of individuals of all racial, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds. It includes everyone’s right to live in and take pleasure in a healthy environment (Figueroa 456). Despite having made the least contribution to the issue, communities of color and those with low incomes are disproportionately impacted by climate change.

There must be a worldwide response to the issue of climate change. However, the burden of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to changing climates falls disproportionately on low-income and minority communities, which have the least access to resources and the most to lose. These communities are also more likely to be located in areas that are already vulnerable to climate change or susceptible to its effects (Lynch 74). Policymakers and campaigners must take into consideration the distinctive vulnerability of low-income and minority communities in order to solve environmental justice issues. They particularly need access to the data and materials needed to make educated decisions regarding climate change mitigation measures.

Where does environmental justice excel, and where does it fall flat?

Section 1: Environmental Justice in the United States and Canada

How does environmental justice change and differ between countries according to their needs?

Environmental justice issues tend to be more pressing in developing countries where there are fewer resources and infrastructure to deal with environmental problems. Additionally, environmental justice issues in developed countries may focus more on issues of equity, such as ensuring that low-income and minority communities have access to clean air and water. Developed countries may also have more stringent environmental regulations that are designed to protect the environment, even if they do not always achieve environmental justice outcomes (Lynch 49). Overall, environmental justice is an important issue that needs to be considered when planning and implementing policies or projects that impact the environment.

Each country has different needs and priorities, so it is important to tailor solutions accordingly. Communities that are negatively impacted by environmental policies or projects often have less power to speak out and demand change. Environmental justice efforts can help empower these communities and ensure that their voices are heard. Some examples of environmental justice issues include air pollution, water pollution, hazardous waste disposal, and climate change. Each of these issues has potential impacts on human health and the environment, as well as on socio-economic factors such as access to education and jobs. There are a number of benefits to pursuing environmental justice goals. Environmental justice efforts can help address institutional and systemic racism, which can hinder access to basic resources such as education and clean air and water. Implementing Environmental Justice policies can lead to more effective waste management and climate change mitigation strategies. Environmental justice concerns can be exacerbated by race or ethnicity factors since certain communities may be more vulnerable to these impacts due to their socio-economic status or location. Therefore, Environmental Justice initiatives can help address the unique needs of different communities while also protecting the environment.

Why and how do environmental injustices affect minority / low-income communities?

Minority populations are more likely to dwell in areas with high pollution levels and are disproportionately impacted by environmental dangers. In the US, this is particularly accurate. More than half of those who live near hazardous waste are people of color, and environmental causes are more likely to cause the death of persons of color. Environmental racism has been referred to as the “new Jim Crow” by some activists due to the uneven living circumstances it causes for communities of color (Lynch 56). This dates back to the sentiments that were first developed by the system of slavery, when enslaved Africans were seen as “disposable” because they were forced to do tasks that were deemed to risky for white workers to handle.

The expenses incurred by society as a whole due to pollution, toxic waste, and poisoned resources are not distributed equally. People of color are more likely to reside in areas with high pollution levels and are disproportionately impacted by environmental dangers. In the US, this is particularly accurate. More than half of those who live near hazardous waste are people of color, and environmental causes are more likely to cause the death of persons of color. Environmental racism has been referred to as the “new Jim Crow” by some activists due to the uneven living circumstances it causes for communities of color. This dates back to the sentiments that were first developed by the system of slavery, when enslaved Africans were seen as “disposable” because they were forced to do tasks that were deemed to risky for white workers to handle.

The institutions and authorities in place in the United States typically see areas that are home to members of minority groups as having less importance than rich, mostly white neighborhoods. The expenses incurred by society as a whole due to pollution, toxic waste, and poisoned resources are not distributed equally. The institution of slavery may be seen as a precursor to more contemporary discriminatory acts as well as social, political, and economic inequalities as we look back through the pages of history. In comparison to non-Hispanic white groups, African American communities have been shown to have a greater prevalence of lower income levels, restricted access to educational opportunities, and worse health statuses.

These disparities are a result of previous discriminatory practices that occurred in housing, education, employment, and healthcare, which makes people more susceptible to the consequences of climate change. These activities all contributed to the appearance of these disparities. Two crucial elements of climate sensitivity are a person’s preexisting health state and the kind of living arrangements they are used to. For instance, although making up just 13% of the country’s overall population, 68 percent of African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant, compared to only 56 percent of Whites(Gilio-Whitaker, 53). Residents who live near to these plants have a higher chance of breathing in the pollutants that are produced, which have been connected to a number of harmful health impacts, including as asthma, heart attacks, and birth abnormalities. However, the person living in the United States does not always have control over the situations listed above.

Disparities exist in the areas of economic power, social policies, and political influences as a consequence of historical underinvestment, discriminatory behaviors and policies across time, structural racism, greater environmental loads, and insufficient access to healthcare services. These differences are caused by elements including geography, race, and money. It is crucial to establish effective policies and initiatives in order to handle the current situation since communities of color are experiencing a growing number of challenges brought on by climate change.

What environmental injustices currently exist, and what is being done to fix/change it?

What is environmental racism?

The phrase “environmental racism” was first used in 1982 and is credited to African American civil rights activist Benjamin Chavis. Environmental racism, according to 107, includes “racial discrimination in environmental policy-making, the enforcement of regulations and laws, the deliberate selection of communities of color for toxic waste facilities, the official sanctioning of the presence of poisons and pollutants in our communities that pose a life-threatening threat, and a history of excluding people of color from leadership positions in the environmental movement.”

Environmental racism can take many different forms in daily life, from unsafe working conditions and low health regulations to the placement of coal-fired power plants nearby neighborhoods with a high concentration of people of color. It might be a sign that people are consuming tainted water from the ground or that kids are going to school in deteriorating structures with asbestos problems. Environmental racism is perfectly exemplified by the situation in Flint, Michigan. In an effort to conserve money, the city switched its water supply to the Flint River in 2014 (Figueroa, 23). The 100,000 residents of the city, the majority of whom are black, were exposed to deadly amounts of lead from aging pipes as well as other contaminants like E. coli since the city failed to treat the new supply appropriately. Indigenous people frequently experience racism because of their surroundings. The environmental justice movement aims to draw attention to the struggles of disadvantaged populations through academic study, media pressure campaigns, and public engagement. Grassroots movements participate in actions like marches and civil disobedience, as well as make use of social media, to make their voices known.

Heat islands

Climate change puts both heavily inhabited regions and their natural environs at jeopardy. In reality, increasingly frequent extreme weather conditions like heatwaves and droughts are raising concerns for both public health and the availability of water resources. The number of people living in towns and cities will keep rising over the course of the next several decades, despite efforts like counterurbanization (Gilio-Whitaker, 59). Megacities will grow as a result, which might exacerbate the consequences of phenomena like urban heat islands. Heat islands are a phenomenon that happens in cities when, as a consequence of human activity, the temperature in these locations is higher than the surrounding areas’ temperatures. The main reason of this phenomena is the presence of man-made structures like buildings, pavements, and roads that absorb more heat and release it more slowly than natural ecosystems like forests, rivers, and lakes. Additionally, there is the heat and pollution that the nearby businesses and traffic create. All of this results in a worsening of the effects of climate change on urban areas and a decrease in the quality of life for those who live there. The likelihood of severe weather occurrences will grow even in situations with just a minor rise in temperature. Urban regions, where more than half of the world’s population now lives, often face the harshest consequences of climate change first.

Illegal dumping

Any type of improper garbage disposal, including dumping, falls under the category of illegal dumping. When garbage is disposed of at a location that is not authorized, such as a landfill, the practice is considered unethical. It is common practice to dump waste illegally in open areas such as roadside ditches, rivers, lakes, and state parks. This kind of dumping presents a danger to human health as well as the environment. It includes the dumping of non-hazardous waste by those who do not intend to dispose of it in an appropriate manner or pay the charge associated with disposal(Gilio-Whitaker, 53). Wastes, the majority of which are hazardous, are produced by every industry. The contamination of ground and surface water sources by the incorrect disposal of hazardous waste is one of the many ways that this kind of trash is destructive to the environment. This results in the pollution of drinking water, which is hazardous to the health of both humans and the aquatic life it supports. According to the findings of several studies, the severity of some health issues may be exacerbated by exposure to pollution in the environment. These kinds of health issues include neurological disorders in youngsters, as well as autism, breast cancer, and prostate cancer.

Because illegal dumping often takes place in areas that are easily accessible to people, particularly children, those who come into touch with the chemicals have a higher chance of experiencing negative effects. Many individuals feel that industries need to be held responsible for the damage they do to people and the environment as a result of their careless disposal of hazardous chemicals. This belief stems from the widespread perception that industries are to fault for these problems. One of the issues that arises as a result of unlawful dumping is the obstruction of runoff water in the case of heavy precipitation. Because of this, there is a risk of flooding, which is caused by obstructed drainage routes. On the other hand, if the water were to flow through the garbage, it would pollute the rivers, which would pose a significant threat to the health of any persons who had access to such water (Gilio-Whitaker, 53). In addition to this, some solid wastes act as a sponge, soaking up water and transforming the surrounding area into an ideal habitat for mosquitoes, which in turn raises the probability of adverse health effects.

The loss of aesthetic value in a community is one of the effects that might result from the practice of unlawful dumping. This, in turn, results in a decrease in the cost of property, in addition to a decrease in community pride and income. Because illegally disposed of wastes cannot be separated for recycling, all of the garbage that is generated ends up being placed in a landfill, which results in a loss of revenue. In this manner, cash might be earned via recycling, and no costs would be paid through the correct disposal of pollutants.

Healthcare and climate in low SES and minority communities

What causes environmental injustices and inequity?

Usually, when people think of environmental injustice, they see giant corporations harming the environment, which eventually harms locals. Since the beginning of industrialization, which made it simpler for big businesses to grow and have an influence on the environment, this has been a significant issue (Engelman, 45). The issue of trash being dumped in nearby rivers and water supplies persists. The idea of environmental justice offers a striking contrast to the ecological modernization rhetoric, which has come under fire for its reformism and excessive reliance on consensus politics. The main claim of ecological modernization is that with just little alterations and corrections, industrial society can be made sustainable. A strong opposition to the rising commercialization and financialization of nature, environmental justice also offers an alternative to conventional conceptions of conservation by challenging the market’s capacity to achieve social or environmental sustainability.

Some businesses fail to understand or don’t give a damn that dumping chemicals into adjacent water sources may pollute drinking water and harm many other areas of the ecosystem (Amanda, et al, 94). Community people are seldom, if ever, involved in the decision-making process in these situations. This implies that businesses may take independent actions that harm the environment and the neighborhood with no control or participation from neighborhood residents. Other groups have minimal impact, even if community members in government positions with better socio-economic categories may do so. As a result, there is a disconnect between the community’s demands and its capacity to shape choices that have an impact on their daily lives.

A brief history of minority movements, displacement, and the rise of environmental justice

In the 1980s, a long history of environmentalism and activism among communities of color gave rise to the environmental justice movement in the United States. This movement sprang out of the 1980s. This history includes the forced movement of African Americans during the time of slavery, the enormous deportation of Mexican Americans during the Great Depression, and the displacement of Native Americans (Gilio-Whitaker, 53). In the latter part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century, white Americans increasingly came to consider the natural world as a resource that could be exploited, rather than as a communal area that should be safeguarded. This mentality resulted in the forced movement of African Americans during the time of slavery, the widespread deportation of Mexican Americans during the Great Depression, and the displacement of Native Americans.

Today, activists for environmental justice are striving to ensure that communities of color are not disproportionately burdened by the dangers and liabilities that are caused by the environment. They want to do so via legal action and legislative initiatives in order to rectify past wrongs.

The history of environmental justice in the United States can be traced back to the late 19th century, when white Americans began to view the environment as a resource to be exploited (Pellow, 80). The rise of environmental justice in the United States has had a positive impact on public health, as communities with poor air quality have of environmental justice can be traced back to the late 19th century (Engelman, 98). Throughout the 20th century, campaigners for environmental justice tried to rectify past wrongs by bringing cases before the courts and lobbying for legislative action. Today, they are trying to guarantee that communities of color are not disproportionately burdened by environmental dangers and burdens. Specifically, they are striving to ensure that this does not happen.

Section 2: Differences in Environmental Justice Between the USA and Canada

Minority Groups: Native Americans and Indigenous Justice

Native Americans have had their rights consistently infringed, and they are often regarded as though they are citizens of a lower class. One such example is that voting rights were not extended to Native Americans until the year 1924. The ability to own property did not become available to them until the latter half of the 19th century. In addition to this, Native Americans have historically been treated unfairly by the legal system (Mohai, 76). For instance, in comparison to other groups, they have a much higher risk of being arrested and sentenced to jail. The United States government has passed a number of legislation and laws to safeguard Native Americans and their rights in an effort to redress the wrongs that have been done to them. The Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968, the Indian Education Assistance Act of 1972, and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 are all examples of laws that fall within this category.

Environmental Law and the Government

What is environmental law? How does it apply, and what are the differences between USA and Canada?

Environmental law is a body of law that seeks to protect the environment from human activity. It is a relatively new field of law, having only arisen in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a response to the Industrial Revolution. Environmental law applies to a wide range of human activities, including pollution, resource extraction, and land use. In the United States, environmental law is primarily governed by a patchwork of federal, state, and local statutes (Amanda, et al, 43). In Canada, environmental law is largely governed by the Constitution and several federal statutes (Pellow, 80). There are a number of important differences between US and Canadian environmental law. In the United States, environmental law is primarily concerned with protecting human health and safety; in Canada, environmental law is primarily concerned with protecting the environment (Mohai, 50). US environmental laws are much more restrictive than Canadian environmental laws, and US courts are much more reluctant to enforce them (Gilio-Whitaker, 54). Overall, however, both countries have developed strong legal systems that protect the environment through a variety of legal mechanisms. environmental law is an important part of the global effort to address climate change, and both countries are working to improve their laws and enforcement mechanisms in order to better protect the environment.

What are your rights regarding the environment?

A human’s most basic right is to live in a safe and healthy environment. There should be no one denied the fundamental human right to a safe and healthy environment. The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child are only two of the numerous international treaties and conventions that uphold this right. Many national constitutions also officially acknowledge it (Gilio-Whitaker, 32). The right to a safe and wholesome environment encompasses the ability to learn about potential threats to human health and the chance to have a say in the policies that shape our natural surroundings. An individual has the right to peacefully and without fear of reprisal exercise their rights.

Individuals and organisations can use a variety of legal tools to protect their rights to a clean and healthy environment. These include lawsuits, protests, lobbying, and public education campaigns. Environmental law international treaties human rights constitutions access information participate manage decisions exercise peacefully without fear retaliation (Engelman, 35). You have a responsibility to protect the environment. This means that you should avoid causing environmental damage, and you should take steps to reduce the amount of pollution and waste that is produced. You also have a duty to report any environmental incidents that you witness or suspect.

The Future

It is quite evident that racism and other factors continue to obstruct even the most fundamental level of environmental justice, despite the fact that federal and state officials have been very kind in their statements. These shortcomings also constitute a violation of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of a person’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin (and later, sexual orientation and gender identity). Even if those aims, which are often stated, were accomplished, this would not fulfill the larger principles that were expressed at the Summit in 1991 (Amanda, et al, 76). These principles included preventing damage before it happens, transferring the weight of responsibility on polluters, and redressing existing imbalances.

In order to get true environmental justice, we will need to actively take measures to avoid environmental damage.

We have a responsibility to safeguard both human health and the natural environment. Even as early as 1970, governments in Europe had already devised what they referred to as a cautious strategy; however, this was generally disregarded in the United States. Planning and politics in today’s world, in general, are based largely on economic concerns and short-term thinking, both of which minimize or overlook the significance of the influence that a decision will have on future generations (Pellow, 80). The difficulty lies in persuading decision-makers in government, politics, and planning to adopt a more holistic, long-term perspective and to keep in mind that two of the most important tenets of ecology are the idea that everything is connected to everything else and that there is no such thing as a free lunch (Gilio-Whitaker, 43). Environmental justice does not mean passing on the responsibility of cleaning up a dirty earth to future generations. The children of today as well as those who will come after them are owed a climate and environment that are risk-free and beneficial to their well-being, and their opinions should be taken into account in matters pertaining to environmental justice.


The idea that all people and communities, regardless of their history, way of life, or beliefs, deserve equal protection in their individual environments. This is known as the notion of environmental justice. This includes the ability to access essential social institutions that are also practicable, as well as the protection afforded by the law on a nondiscriminatory basis and the protection of fundamental human rights. The only way to ensure that everyone has the same rights regarding the environment is to strictly enforce the law. The rules are not observed and are bypassed for convenient reasons. While this is going on, monies that might be used to help low-income communities become more self-sufficient and develop are being wasted on projects of poor quality.

Works Cited

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Engelman, Alina, Leyla Craig, and Alastair Iles. “Global Disability Justice in Climate Disasters: Mobilizing People with Disabilities as Change Agents.” Health Affairs, vol. 41, no. 10, 2022, pp. 1496-1504. ProQuest, isability-justice-climate-disasters/docview/2720976239/se-2, doi:

Figueroa, Robert, and Claudia Mills. “Environmental justice.” A companion to environmental philosophy (2001): 426-438.

Giang, Amanda, et al. “Exposure, Access, and Inequities: Central Themes, Emerging Trends, and Key Gaps in Canadian Environmental Justice Literature from 2006 to 2017.” Canadian Geographer, vol. 66, no. 3, 2022, pp. 434-449. ProQuest,

Gilio-Whitaker, Dina. As long as grass grows: The Indigenous fight for environmental justice, from colonization to Standing Rock. Beacon Press, 2019.

Justice Department Launches Environmental Justice Investigation into the City of Houston, Texas. Federal Information & News Dispatch, LLC, Washington, 2022. ProQuest,

Lynch, Michael J., and Paul B. Stretesky. “Native Americans and Social and Environmental Justice: Implications for Criminology.” Social Justice, vol. 38, no. 3 (125), 2012, pp.

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Mohai, Paul, et al. “Environmental Justice | Annual Review of Environment and Resources.”

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Pellow, David Naguib. What is critical environmental justice? John Wiley & Sons, 2017.


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