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The issue of enviromental justice is a huge problem in the Twin Cities as well as across the United States. In this blog entry I will not only be providing a brief overview of how it is affecting the Twin Cities, but will take a stand against environmental injustice against the minority and impoverish communities.
Environmental Justice for those of you who have not heard of it is defined as a social and environmental movement, dealing with the inequitable environmental burden born by groups such as racial minorities, women, the elderly, or residents of developing nations.
In a nutshell, this movement is fighting for an equal distribution of pollution. It is calling for toxic waste sites and toxic factories to not solely be placed in minority or impoverished communites. It is fighting for equally clean water for minorities to drink, equally clean air for minorities to breathe, and an equally clean neighborhoods for their children to play in. It is calling for EQUALITY...something that the United States is SUPPOSED to be all about; something the United States is supposed to be supporting.
One can use the EPA's enviromapper of TRI sites and hazardous waste sitess and the Census Beareau's demographic plotter to see exactly how injust this issue is. When one looks at both of these, one can CLEARLY see the direct correlation between where minority races and impoverished citizens live and where hazardous waste sites are located. Where every hazardous waste site or factory is located there is a dense population of minority and/or poor people.
This topic was first researched by upper class white men, and still the majority of activists in favor of this issue are upper class because they are the ones with the means to take control of this situation. Props for them to take a stand and stop worrying about making a buck from the whole ordeal.
The whole ordeal started with "white flight" (the moving of whites from the city to suburia when they obtained to means to do so to provide a better life for their family: "suburbanization"). As the whites moved out of the city and gave up the factory level jobs for more powerful positons with higher pay and better working conditions. This left behind plenty of easy to obtain manual labor jobs and plenty of cheap housing near factories for minorities and immigrants to move into. At the time it seemed perfect...CHEAP and CLOSE TO WORK....what more could you ask for...right? Little did they know that they were endangering their health and their lives.
But really this is not an issue that minorities dwell on. If they in fact are being affected by this situation and are educated enough so to know that where they are living is endangering their health...they do not have the time or means to take action on this. They are too busy trying to make ends meet, pay their bills, sometimes working multiple jobs, raising their children and keeping their family together.
There really isn't a good solution to this problem. Environmental injustice doesn't have a quick fix, a good solution, an easy "rip the bandaid off" answer, and almighty cure. There is no good way to fix this problem. We cannot move the factories: that costs money that the companies don't want to spend, that moves jobs away from their minority workers (now workers can't easily get to work), that creates inconveniences. We cannot relocate all of the people that live in these areas...for all the same reasons. And we cannot, in reality completely stop pollution: some of our most important technologies and energies need to have pollution. ie: How can we build a bridge without a steel treatment plant??? We can't!!!!
Its a tricky issue and that is why we need to continue to study it and continue to brainstorm ideas to fix the problem. Until we run across a solution though, we need to keep pollution to a minimum, consume as little energy as possible and push for pollution policy control to prevent hazardous toxins from being releases. As far as I know that is ALL we CAN do. As long as peoples lives are injustice in danger though, I believe we need to continue working on a solution to this problem...hopefully eventually we will find an answer to prevent further struggle and inequality.