Team ulaunch elucidates the concept of Environment Racism prevalent in recent times.

What is Environmental racism?

Environmental Racism is used to describe the injustices that occur within a racialised context. It refers to the institutional rules, regulations, policies, and government decisions that cause harm, directly or indirectly, often resulting in communities being disproportionately exposed to toxic and hazardous waste based upon race. It has been practised for over centuries now, along with oppression and colonisation.

Environmental Racism
Environmental Racism
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How does Environmental Racism occur?

Environmental Racism is caused by several different factors, some of them being intentional neglect, lack of political power, and poverty.

It is a well-known ‘fact’ that minorities of low income and colour are unreasonably impacted by lax regulation and polluting industries. Studies show a high correlation between minority groups with the low-income with an unhealthy environment, Poor people with little to no representation at the central level do not have the economic means for resettlement elsewhere. Housing discrimination further makes it difficult for these people to find alternative dwellings at affordable rates, Industries that pollute are attracted to poor neighbourhoods because land values, incomes, and other costs of doing business are low. The industries are drawn to poor neighbourhoods where political power and community resources to fight back are weak or lacking. Higher-income areas are usually more successful in preventing or controlling the entry of polluting industries into their communities.

Racial disparity in the case of Environmental Racism
Racial disparity in the case of Environmental Racism
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Case of Environmental Racism

The Baghjan oil blowout in Assam which had a devastating effect on the lives of 7000+ and the local biodiversity did not receive as much media coverage as the Vizag Gas Leak case in Andhra Pradesh. In the same area, despite public protest, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change gave clearance to seven oil drilling sites inside Dibru Saikhowa National Park, a biosphere reserve.

The local population was not consulted before giving clearance to the bypassing public hearing. The Union Government announced an auction of coal mines to private institutions in 41 blocks, in the tribal belt of central India. Many of these mines are located in the Hasdeo Arand region of Chhattisgarh, which is considered to be one of the largest contiguous dense forest stretches in India. The lack of representation of tribal and indigenous communities in environmental policy- and decision-making, is one of the main reasons for such projects getting cleared without any hurdle.

Assam Baghjan Blowout - Environmental Racism
The blaze at the well is so massive that it can be seen from a distance of more than 30 km with thick black smoke going up several metres high.
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How can we eliminate the practices of Environmental Racism?

Environmental Organisations such as EPA have adopted environmental justice as their main goal to protect the interest of the communities and combat environmental racism from a holistic approach in their operational areas, it also ensures everyone has the same degree of access to the decision-making process to have an environment with healthy living, working, and learning conditions. Broadly, environmental justice is all about equal distribution of the benefits and risks of the environment accompanied by participatory decision-making on environmental matters.

Environmental justice is a social movement that originated from the need for healthy environments for all communities regardless of their race, economic status, and provenience. 

For this reason, 17 principles of environmental justice were drafted and adopted by delegates to the First National People of Color Environment Leadership summit held in October 1991 in Washington DC.

Principles of Environmental Justice 

  1. It affirms the sacredness of Mother Earth, ecological unity and the interdependence of all species, and the right to be free from ecological destruction.
  2. It demands that public policy be based on mutual respect and justice for all peoples, free from any form of discrimination or bias.
  3. It mandates the right to ethical, balanced, and responsible uses of land and renewable resources in the interest of a sustainable planet for humans and other living things.
  4. It calls for universal protection from nuclear testing, extraction, production, and disposal of toxic/hazardous wastes and poisons and nuclear testing that threaten the fundamental right to clean air, land, water, and food.
  5. It affirms the fundamental right to political, economic, cultural, and environmental self-determination of all peoples.
  6. It demands the cessation of the production of all toxins, hazardous wastes, and radioactive materials, and that all past and current producers be held strictly accountable to the people for detoxification and containment at the point of production.
  7. It demands the right to participate as equal partners at every level of decision-making, including needs assessment, planning, implementation, enforcement, and evaluation.
  8. It affirms the right of all workers to a safe and healthy work environment without being forced to choose between an unsafe livelihood and unemployment. It also affirms the right of those who work at home to be free from environmental hazards.
  9. It protects the right of victims of environmental injustice to receive full compensation and reparations for damages as well as quality health care.
  10. It considers governmental acts of environmental injustice a violation of international law, the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, and the United Nations Convention on Genocide.
  11. It must recognize a special legal and natural relationship of Native Peoples to the U.S. government through treaties, agreements, compacts, and covenants affirming sovereignty and self-determination.
  12. It affirms the need for urban and rural ecological policies to clean up and rebuild our cities and rural areas in balance with nature, honouring the cultural integrity of all our communities, and provided fair access for all to the full range of resources.
  13. It calls for the strict enforcement of principles of informed consent, and a halt to the testing of experimental reproductive and medical procedures and vaccinations on people of colour.
  14. It opposes the destructive operations of multinational corporations.
  15. It opposes military occupation, repression, and exploitation of lands, peoples, and cultures, and other life forms.
  16. It calls for the education of present and future generations which emphasizes social and environmental issues, based on our experience and an appreciation of our diverse cultural perspectives.
  17. It requires that we, as individuals, make personal and consumer choices to consume as little of Mother Earth’s resources and to produce as little waste as possible; and make the conscious decision to challenge and reprioritize our lifestyles to ensure the health of the natural world for present and future generations.

Therefore, by the adoption of these 17 principles, we can successfully eliminate the practices of environmental racism. It is the responsibility of every human being to voice up against the injustice and oppression faced by their fellow counterparts so that everyone can lead a dignified life, free from the complexities of hazards.

Read about Audi’s policies on fighting climate change and their Sustainability Project named Mission Zero.


Researched and written by Anupriya Pandey, Team ulaunch.


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