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Environmental justice or eco-justice, is a social movement to address environmental injustice, which occurs when poor and marginalized communities are harmed by hazardous waste, resource extraction, and other land uses from which they do not benefit. The movement has generated hundreds of studies showing that exposure to environmental harm is inequitably distributed.
The movement began in the United States in the 1980s. It was heavily influenced by the American civil rights movement and focused on environmental racism within rich countries. The movement was later expanded to consider gender, international environmental injustice, and inequalities within marginised groups. As the movement achieved some success in rich countries, environmental burdens were shifted to the Global South (as for example through extractivism or the global waste trade). The movement for environmental justice has thus become more global, with some of its aims now being articulated by the United Nations. The movement overlaps with movements for Indigenous land rights and for the human right to a healthy environment.
The goal of the environmental justice movement is to achieve agency for marginalised communities in making environmental decisions that affect their lives. The global environmental justice movement arises from local environmental conflicts in which environmental defenders frequently confront multi-national corporations in resource extraction or other industries. Local outcomes of these conflicts are increasingly influenced by trans-national environmental justice networks.
Environmental justice scholars have produced a large interdisciplinary body of social science literature that includes contributions to political ecology,environmental law, and theories on justice and sustainability.
Environmental justice is typically defined as distributive justice, which is the equitable distribution of environmental risks and benefits. Some definitions address procedural justice, which is the fair and meaningful participation in decision-making. Other scholars emphasise recognition justice, which is the recognition of oppression and difference in environmental justice communities. People's capacity to convert social goods into a flourishing community is a further criteria for a just society.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency defines environmental justice as:
the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.
Environmental justice is also discussed as environmental racism or environmental inequality.
Joan Martinez-Alier's influential concept of the environmentalism of the poor highlights the ways in which marginalized communities, particularly those in the Global South, are disproportionately affected by environmental degradation and the importance of including their perspectives and needs in environmental decision-making. Martinez-Alier's work also introduces the concept of "ecological distribution conflicts," which are conflicts over access to and control of natural resources and the environmental impacts that result from their use, and which are often rooted in social and economic inequalities.
There are various everyone can enjoy environmental justices, which includes:
See also: Environmental racism
The origins of the environmental justice movement can be traced to the Indigenous environmental movement, which has roots in over 500 years of colonialism and ongoing struggles for sovereignty and land rights. Use of the terms 'environmental justice' and 'environmental racism' began in the United States with the 1982 PCB protests in Warren County, North Carolina. Dumping of PCB contaminated soil in the predominately Black community of Afton sparked massive protests, and over 500 people were arrested.
In response to these protests, the Commission for Racial Justice studied the placement of hazardous waste facilities in the US and found that race was the most important factor predicting placement of these facilities. These studies were followed by widespread objections and lawsuits against hazardous waste disposal in poor, generally Black, communities. The mainstream environmental movement began to be criticised for its predominately white affluent leadership, emphasis on conservation, and failure to address social equity concerns.
Through the 1970s and 1980s, grassroots movements and environmental organizations promoted regulations that increased the costs of hazardous waste disposal in the US and other industrialized countries. Exports of hazardous waste to the Global South escalated through the 1980s and 1990s. Globally, disposal of toxic waste, land appropriation, and resource extraction leads to human rights violations and environmental conflict as the basis of the global environmental justice movement.
International formalization of environmental justice began with the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in 1991. The summit was held in Washington, DC, and was attended by over 650 delegates from every US state, Mexico, Chile, and other countries. Delegates adopted 17 principles of environmental justice which were circulated at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio. Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development states that individuals shall have access to information regarding environmental matters, participation in decisions, and access to justice.
Prior to the Leadership Summit in 1991, the scope of the environmental justice movement dealt primarily with anti-toxics and harms to certain marginalized racial groups within rich countries; during the summit, it was expanded to include public health, worker safety, land use, transportation, and many other issues. The movement was later expanded to more completely consider gender, international injustices, and inequalities within disadvantaged groups. Environmental justice has become a very broad global movement, and it has contributed several concepts to political ecology that have been adopted or formalized in academic literature. These concepts include ecological debt, environmental racism, climate justice, food sovereignty, corporate accountability, ecocide, sacrifice zones, environmentalism of the poor, and others.
Environmental justice seeks to expand the scope of human rights law which had previously failed to treat the relationship between the environment and human rights. Most human rights treaties do not have explicitly environmental provisions. Attempts to integrate environmental protection with human rights law include the codification of the human right to a healthy environment. Integrating environmental protections into human rights law remains problematic, especially in the case of climate justice.
Scholars such as Kyle Powys Whyte and Dina Gilio-Whitaker have extended the environmental justice discourse in relation to Indigenous people and settler-colonialism. Gilio-Whitaker points out that distributive justice presumes a capitalistic commodification of land that is inconsistent with Indigenous worldviews. Whyte discusses environmental justice in the context of catastrophic changes brought by colonisation to the environments that Indigenous peoples have relied upon for centuries to maintain their livelihoods and identities.
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The environmental justice movement seeks to address environmental discrimination and environmental racism associated with hazardous waste disposal, resource extraction, land appropriation, and other activities. This environmental discrimination results in the loss of land-based traditions and economies, armed violence (especially against women and indigenous people) environmental degradation, and environmental conflict. The global environmental justice movement arises from these local place-based conflicts in which local environmental defenders frequently confront multi-national corporations. Local outcomes of these conflicts are increasingly influenced by trans-national environmental justice networks.
There are many divisions along which unjust distribution of environmental burdens may fall. Within the US, race is the most important determinant of environmental injustice. In some other countries, poverty or caste (India) are important indicators. Tribal affiliation is also important in some countries. Environmental justice scholars Laura Pulido and David Pellow argue that recognizing environmental racism as an element stemming from the entrenched legacies of racial capitalism is crucial to the movement, with white supremacy continuing to shape human relationships with nature and labor.
Environmental racism is a pervasive and complex issue that affects communities all over the world. It is a form of systemic discrimination that is grounded in the intersection of race, class, and environmental factors. At its core, environmental racism refers to the disproportionate exposure of certain communities, mostly those that are marginalised, to environmental hazards such as pollution, toxic waste, and other environmental risks. These communities are often located near industrial sites, waste facilities, and other sources of pollution that can have serious health impacts. Environmental racism has a long and troubling history, with many examples dating back to the early 20th century. For instance, the practice of "redlining" in the US, which involved denying loans and insurance to communities of colour, often led to these communities being located in areas with high levels of pollution and environmental hazards. Today, environmental racism continues to be a significant environmental justice issue, with many low-income communities and communities of colour facing disproportionate exposure to pollution and other environmental risks. This can have serious consequences for the health and well-being of these communities, leading to higher rates of asthma, cancer, and other illnesses. Addressing environmental racism requires a multifaceted approach that tackles the underlying social, economic, and political factors that contribute to its persistence. More particularly, environmental justice scholars from Latin America and elsewhere advocate to understand this issue through the lens of decolonisation. The latter underlies the fact that environmental racism emanates from the colonial projects of the West and its current reproduction of colonial dynamics.
As environmental justice groups have grown more successful in developed countries such as the United States, the burdens of global production have been shifted to the Global South where less-strict regulations makes waste disposal cheaper. Export of toxic waste from the US escalated throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Many impacted countries do not have adequate disposal systems for this waste, and impacted communities are not informed about the hazards they are being exposed to.
The Khian Sea waste disposal incident was a notable example of environmental justice issues arising from international movement of toxic waste. Contractors disposing of ash from waste incinerators in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania illegally dumped the waste on a beach in Haiti after several other countries refused to accept it. After more than ten years of debate, the waste was eventually returned to Pennsylvania. The incident contributed to the creation of the Basel Convention that regulates international movement of toxic waste.
Countries in the Global South disproportionately bear the environmental burden of global production and the costs of over-consumption in Western societies. This burden is exacerbated by changes in land use that shift vast tracts of land away from family and subsistence farming toward multi-national investments in land speculation, agriculture, mining, or conservation. Land grabs in the Global South are engendered by neoliberal ideology and differences in legal frameworks, land prices, and regulatory practices that make countries in the Global South attractive to foreign investments. These land grabs endanger indigenous livelihoods and continuity of social, cultural, and spiritual practices. Resistance to land appropriation through transformative social action is also made difficult by pre-existing social inequity and deprivation; impacted communities are often already struggling just to meet their basic needs.
Resource extraction is a prime example of a tool based on colonial dynamics that engenders environmental racism.Hundreds of studies have shown that marginalized communities, often indigenous communities, are disproportionately burdened by the negative environmental consequences of resource extraction. Communities near valuable natural resources are frequently saddled with a resource curse wherein they bear the environmental costs of extraction and a brief economic boom that leads to economic instability and ultimately poverty. Indigenous communities living near valuable natural resources face even more discrimination, since they are in most cases simply displaced from their home. Power disparities between extraction industries and impacted communities lead to acute procedural injustice in which local communities are unable to meaningfully participate in decisions that will shape their lives.
Studies have also shown that extraction of critical minerals, timber, and petroleum may be associated with armed violence in communities that host mining operations. The government of Canada found that resource extraction leads to missing and murdered indigenous women in communities impacted by mines and infrastructure projects such as pipelines. The Environmental Justice Atlas, that documents conflicts of environmental justice, demonstrates multiple conflicts with high violence on indigenous populations around resource extraction.
Unequal exchange is a term used to describe the unequal economic and trade relationship between countries from the Global North and the Global South. The idea is that the exchange of goods and services between these countries is not equal, with Global North countries benefiting more than the others. This occurs for a variety of reasons such as differences in labor costs, technology, and access to resources. Unequal exchange perceives this framework of trade through the lens of decolonisation: colonial power dynamics have led to a trade system where northern countries can trade their knowledge and technology at a very high price against natural resources, materials and labor at a very low price from southern countries. This is kept in place by mechanisms such as enforceable patents, trade regulations and price setting by institutions such as the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund, where northern countries hold most of the voting power. Hence, unequal exchange is a phenomenon that is based on and perpetuates colonial relationships, as it leads to exploitation and enforces existing inequalities between countries of the Global North and Global South. This interdependence also explains the differences in CO2 emissions between northern and southern countries: evidently, since northern countries use many resources and materials of the South, they produce and pollute more.  This interdependence also explains the differences in CO2 emissions between northern and southern countries: evidently, since northern countries use many resources and materials of the South, they produce and pollute more  
Environmental justice communities that are disproportionately exposed to chemical pollution, reduced air quality, and contaminated water sources may experience overall reduced health. Poverty in these communities can be a factor that increases their exposure to occupational hazards such as chemicals used in agriculture or industry. When workers leave the work environment they may bring chemicals with them on their clothing, shoes, skin, and hair, creating further impacts on their families, including children. Children in EJ communities are uniquely exposed, because they metabolize and absorb contaminants differently than adults. These children are exposed to a higher level of contaminants throughout their lives, beginning in utero (through the placenta), and are at greater risk for adverse health effects like respiratory conditions, gastrointestinal conditions, and mental conditions.
Fast fashion exposes environmental justice communities to occupational hazards such as poor ventilation that can lead to respiratory problems from inhalation of synthetic particles and cotton dust. Textile dyeing can also expose EJ communities to toxins and heavy metals when untreated wastewater enters water systems used by residents and for livestock. 95% of clothing production takes place in low- or middle-income countries where the workers are under-resourced.
See also: Environmental law
One of the prominent barriers to minority participation in environmental justice is the initial costs of trying to change the system and prevent companies from dumping their toxic waste and other pollutants in areas with high numbers of minorities living in them. There are massive legal fees involved in fighting for environmental justice and trying to shed environmental racism. For example, in the United Kingdom, there is a rule that the claimant may have to cover the fees of their opponents, which further exacerbates any cost issues, especially with lower-income minority groups; also, the only way for environmental justice groups to hold companies accountable for their pollution and breaking any licensing issues over waste disposal would be to sue the government for not enforcing rules. This would lead to the forbidding legal fees that most could not afford. This can be seen by the fact that out of 210 judicial review cases between 2005 and 2009, 56% did not proceed due to costs.
See also: Climate justice
Climate change and climate justice have also been a component when discussing environmental justice and the greater impact it has on environmental justice communities. Air pollution and water pollution are two contributors of climate change that can have detrimental effects such as extreme temperatures, increase in precipitation, and a rise in sea level. Because of this, communities are more vulnerable to events including floods and droughts potentially resulting in food scarcity and an increased exposure to infectious, food-related, and water-related diseases. Currently, without sufficient treatment, more than 80% of all wastewater generated globally is released into the environment. High-income nations treat, on average, 70% of the wastewater they produce, according to UN Water.
It has been projected that climate change will have the greatest impact on vulnerable populations.
Climate justice has been influenced by environmental justice, especially grassroots climate justice.
See also: Environmentalism
Relative to general environmentalism, environmental justice is seen as having a greater focus on the lives of everyday people and being more grassroots. Environmental justice advocates have argued that mainstream environmentalist movements have sometimes been racist and elitist.
See also: Reproductive justice
Many participants in the Reproductive Justice Movement see their struggle as linked with those for environmental justice, and vice versa. Loretta Ross describes the reproductive justice framework as addressing "the ability of any woman to determine her own reproductive destiny" and argues this is "linked directly to the conditions in her community – and these conditions are not just a matter of individual choice and access." Such conditions include those central to environmental justice – including the siting of toxic waste and pollution of food, air, and waterways.
Mohawk midwife Katsi Cook founded the Mother's Milk Project in the 1980s to address the toxic contamination of maternal bodies through exposure to fish and water contaminated by a General Motors Superfund site. In underscoring how contamination disproportionately impacted Akwesasne women and their children through gestation and breastfeeding, this project illustrates the intersections between reproductive and environmental justice. Cook explains that, "at the breasts of women flows the relationship of those generations both to society and to the natural world."
Main article: List of environmental conflicts
Environmental justice campaigns have arisen from local conflicts all over the world. The Environmental Justice Atlas documented 3,100 environmental conflicts worldwide as of April 2020 and emphasised that many more conflicts remained undocumented.
Main article: Environmental issues in Africa
Mining for cobalt and copper in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has resulted in environmental injustice and numerous environmental conflicts including
Conflict minerals mined in the DRC perpetuate armed conflict.
Mining for gold and other minerals has resulted in environmental injustice and environmental conflict in Ethiopia including
Kenya has, since independence in 1963, focused on environmental protectionism. Environmental activists such as Wangari Maathai stood for and defend natural and environmental resources, often coming into conflict with the Daniel Arap Moi and his government. The country has suffered Environmental issues arising from rapid urbanization especially in Nairobi, where the public space, Uhuru Park, and game parks such as the Nairobi National Park have suffered encroachment to pave way for infrastructural developments like the Standard Gage Railway and the Nairobi Expressway. one of the Top environmental lawyers, Kariuki Muigua, has championed environmental Justice and access to information and legal protection, authoring the Environmental Justice Thesis on Kenya's milestones.
From 1956 to 2006, up to 1.5 million tons of oil were spilled in the Niger Delta, (50 times the volume spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster). Indigenous people in the region have suffered the loss of their livelihoods as a result of these environmental issues, and they have received no benefits in return for enormous oil revenues extracted from their lands. Environmental conflicts have exacerbated ongoing conflict in the Niger Delta.
Ogoni people, who are indigenous to Nigeria's oil-rich Delta region have protested the disastrous environmental and economic effects of Shell Oil's drilling and denounced human rights abuses by the Nigerian government and by Shell. Their international appeal intensified dramatically after the execution in 1995 of nine Ogoni activists, including Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was a founder of the nonviolent Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP).
Under colonial and apartheid governments in South Africa, thousands of black South Africans were removed from their ancestral lands to make way for game parks. Earthlife Africa was formed in 1988, making it Africa's first environmental justice organisation. In 1992, the Environmental Justice Networking Forum (EJNF), a nationwide umbrella organization designed to coordinate the activities of environmental activists and organizations interested in social and environmental justice, was created. By 1995, the network expanded to include 150 member organizations and by 2000, it included over 600 member organizations.
With the election of the African National Congress (ANC) in 1994, the environmental justice movement gained an ally in government. The ANC noted "poverty and environmental degradation have been closely linked" in South Africa.[attribution needed] The ANC made it clear that environmental inequalities and injustices would be addressed as part of the party's post-apartheid reconstruction and development mandate. The new South African Constitution, finalized in 1996, includes a Bill of Rights that grants South Africans the right to an "environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being" and "to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations through reasonable legislative and other measures that
South Africa's mining industry is the largest single producer of solid waste, accounting for about two-thirds of the total waste stream.[vague] Tens of thousands of deaths have occurred among mine workers as a result of accidents over the last century. There have been several deaths and debilitating diseases from work-related illnesses like asbestosis. For those who live next to a mine, the quality of air and water is poor. Noise, dust, and dangerous equipment and vehicles can be threats to the safety of those who live next to a mine as well. These communities are often poor and black and have little choice over the placement of a mine near their homes. The National Party introduced a new Minerals Act that began to address environmental considerations by recognizing the health and safety concerns of workers and the need for land rehabilitation during and after mining operations. In 1993, the Act was amended to require each new mine to have an Environmental Management Program Report (EMPR) prepared before breaking ground. These EMPRs were intended to force mining companies to outline all the possible environmental impacts of the particular mining operation and to make provision for environmental management.
In October 1998, the Department of Minerals and Energy released a White Paper entitled A Minerals and Mining Policy for South Africa, which included a section on Environmental Management. The White Paper states "Government, in recognition of the responsibility of the State as custodian of the nation's natural resources, will ensure that the essential development of the country's mineral resources will take place within a framework of sustainable development and in accordance with national environmental policy, norms, and standards". It adds that any environmental policy "must ensure a cost-effective and competitive mining industry."
Further information: Marikana massacre
Noah Diffenbaugh and Marshall Burke in their study of inequality in Asia demonstrated the interactionalism of economic inequality and global warming. For instance, globalization and industrialization increased the chances of global warming. However, industrialization also allowed wealth inequality to perpetuate. For example, New Delhi is the epicenter of the industrial revolution in the Indian continent, but there is significant wealth disparity. Furthermore, because of global warming, countries like Sweden and Norway can capitalize on warmer temperatures, while most of the world's poorest countries are significantly poorer than they would have been if global warming had not occurred.
In China, factories create harmful waste such as nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide which cause health risks. Journalist and science writer Fred Pearce notes that in China "most monitoring of urban air still concentrates on one or at most two pollutants, sometimes particulates, sometimes nitrogen oxides or sulfur dioxides or ozone. Similarly, most medical studies of the impacts of these toxins look for links between single pollutants and suspected health effects such as respiratory disease and cardiovascular conditions." The country emits about a third of all the human-made sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulates pollution in the world. The Global Burden of Disease Study, an international collaboration, estimates that 1.1 million Chinese die from the effects of this air pollution each year, roughly a third of the global death toll." The economic cost of deaths due to air pollution is estimated at 267 billion yuan (US$38 billion) per year.
Environmental conflicts in Indonesia include:
Environmental justice movements in Malaysia have arisen from conflicts including:
Main article: Environmental justice in South Korea
Environmental justice movements in South Korea have arisen from conflicts including:
Australia has suffered from a number of environmental injustices, which have usually been caused by polluting corporate projects geared towards extracting natural resources. For example, discriminatory siting of nuclear and hazardous waste facilities. These projects have been detrimental to local climates, biodiversity, and the health of local citizen populations from poorer economic areas. They have also faced little resistance from local and national governments, who tend to cite their ‘economic’ benefits. However, these projects have faced strong resistance from environmental justice organizations, community, and indigenous groups. Australia has a prominent Indigenous population, and they often disproportionately face some of the worst impacts of these projects.
The WestConnex Highway Project emerged as an answer to Sydney’s lack of infrastructure to cope as a fast growing city. The highway project is currently under construction, covers 33km of new and improved highway, and will link up to the city’s M4 and M5 highways.The newest WestConnex toll roads opened in 2019. The NSW government believe that the highway is the ‘missing link’ to the city’s problem of traffic congestion, and has argued that the project will provide further economic benefits such as job creation.
The WestConnex Action Group (WAG) have said that residents close to the highway have been negatively affected by its high levels of air pollution, caused by an increase in traffic and unventilated smokestacks in its tunnels. Protesters have also argued that the close proximity of the highway will put children especially at risk.
The highway has faced resistance in a variety of forms, including a long-running occupation camp in Sydney Park, as well as confrontations with police and construction workers that have lead to arrests. The WAG has set up a damage register for people whose property has been damaged by the highway, in order to document the extent of the damages, and support those who have been affected. The WAG have done this through campaigning for a damage repaid fund, independent damage assessment and potential class action.
The Yeelirrie Uranium Mine was facilitated by Canadian company Cameco. The mine aimed to dig a 9km open mine pit and destroy 2,400 hectares of traditional lands, including the Seven Sisters Dreaming Songling, important to the Tjiwarl people. The mine has faced strong resistance from the Tjiwral people, especially its women, for over decade.
The mine is the largest uranium deposit in the country, and uses nine million litres of water, whilst generating millions of tonnes of radioactive waste. Around 36 million tonnes of this waste will be produced whilst the mine is operational, which is set to be until 2043.
A group of Tjiwral women took Cameco to court, to initial success. The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) halted the mine because it was very likely to wipe out several species, including rare stygofauna, the entire western population of a rare saltbush, and harm other wild life like the Malleefowl, Princess parrot and Greater bilby. The state and federal authorities, however, went against the EPA and approved the mine in 2019.
In March 2021, South Australia Northern Territory Oil Search (SANTOS) invested in the Barossa gas field in the Timor sea, NT, to great reception from the NT government, saying that it will provide jobs for the local area. The move was condemned by environmental justice organisations, saying that it will have grave impacts on the climate and biodiversity. Crucially, they stressed that the Tiwi people, owners of the local islands, were not adequately consulted, and were worried that any spills would damage local flatback and Olive Ridley turtle populations.
This disregard for the Tiwi people sparked protests from a number of groups, including one in front of the SANTOS Darwin headquarters demanding an end to the Barossa gas project. In September 2021, a coalition of environmental justice organisations from Australia, South Korea and Japan, united under the name Stop Barossa Gas to oppose the project. In March 2022, the Tiwi people filed for a court injunction to stop KEXIM and KTIC (Korean development finance institutions) funding the project with almost $1bn. The Tiwi people did this on the basis of a lack of consultation from SANTOS, and the detrimental environmental impacts the project will have. In June 2022, the Tiwi people filed another lawsuit for the same reasons, but this time directly against SANTOS.
Main article: Environmental racism in Europe
The European Environment Agency (EEA) reports that exposure to environmental harms such as pollution is correlated with poverty, and that poorer countries suffer from environmental harms while higher income countries produce the majority of the pollution. Western Europe has more extensive evidence of environmental inequality.
Romani peoples are ethnic minorities that experience environmental discrimination. Discriminatory laws force Romani people In many countries to live in slums or ghettos with poor access to running water and sewage, or where they are exposed to hazardous wastes.
The European Union is trying to strive towards environmental justice by putting into effect declarations that state that all people have a right to a healthy environment. The Stockholm Declaration, the 1987 Brundtland Commission's Report – "Our Common Future", the Rio Declaration, and Article 37 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, all are ways that the Europeans have put acts in place to work toward environmental justice.
Sweden became the first country to ban DDT in 1969. In the 1980s, women activists organized around preparing jam made from pesticide-tainted berries, which they offered to the members of parliament. Parliament members refused, and this has often been cited as an example of direct action within ecofeminism.
Main article: Environmental inequality in the United Kingdom
Whilst the predominant agenda of the Environmental Justice movement in the United States has been tackling issues of race, inequality, and the environment, environmental justice campaigns around the world have developed and shifted in focus. For example, the EJ movement in the United Kingdom is quite different. It focuses on issues of poverty and the environment, but also tackles issues of health inequalities and social exclusion. A UK-based NGO, named the Environmental Justice Foundation, has sought to make a direct link between the need for environmental security and the defense of basic human rights. They have launched several high-profile campaigns that link environmental problems and social injustices. A campaign against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing highlighted how 'pirate' fisherman are stealing food from local, artisanal fishing communities. They have also launched a campaign exposing the environmental and human rights abuses involved in cotton production in Uzbekistan. Cotton produced in Uzbekistan is often harvested by children for little or no pay. In addition, the mismanagement of water resources for crop irrigation has led to the near eradication of the Aral Sea. The Environmental Justice Foundation has successfully petitioned large retailers such as Wal-mart and Tesco to stop selling Uzbek cotton.
In France, numerous Alternatiba events, or villages of alternatives, are providing hundreds of alternatives to climate change and lack of environmental justice, both in order to raise people's awareness and to stimulate behaviour change. They have been or will be organized in over sixty different French and European cities, such as Bilbao, Brussels, Geneva, Lyon or Paris.
Environmental justice movements arising from local conflicts in Belize include
Environmental justice movements arising from local conflicts in Canada include
Environmental justice movements arising from local conflicts in Guatemala include
Environmental justice movements arising from local conflicts in El Salvador include:
The Canadian company Pacific Rim Mining Corporation operates a gold mine on the site of El Dorado, San Isidro, in the department of Cabañas. The mine has had hugely negative impacts on the local environment, including the reduction of accessibility to fresh water due to the water intensive mining process, as well as the contamination of the local water supply, which negatively affected the health of local citizens and their live stock. Also, Salvadorian investigators found dangerously high levels of arsenic in two rivers close to the mine.
The operations of the mine has caused conflicts, increased divisions in the community, and prompted threats and violence against opposition to the mine. Following the suspension of the project in 2008 due to resistance from local groups, this violence escalated. As of today, at least half a dozen deaths among local group opposing the mine have been related with the presence of Pacific Rim. The strength of opposition to the mine contributed towards a national movement against the project. In 2008 and 2009, both the incumbent and elected Salvadorian presidents agreed publicly to deny the extension of the licence to Pacific Rim to connote its operations. More recently, the new president Sanchéz Cerén stated “mining is not viable in El Salvador.”
Honduras has experienced a number of environmental justice struggles, particularly related to the mining, hydroelectric, and logging industries. One of the most high-profile cases was the assassination of Berta Caceres, a Honduran indigenous and environmental rights activist who opposed the construction of the Agua Zarca Dam on the Gualcarque River. Caceres' murder in 2016 sparked widespread outrage and drew international attention to the risks faced by environmental and indigenous activists in Honduras.
Environmental justice movements arising from local conflicts in Mexico include
Environmental justice movements arising from local conflicts in Nicaragua include:
In 2012, the Nicaraguan government approved the construction of the Grand Canal, which will be 286km long. A large section of the new canal will run through Lake Nicaragua, which is an important source of fresh water for the country. The canal will also have a width of 83 meters, and depth of 27.5 meters, making it suitable for large-range ships. Related infrastructures include two ports, an airport and an oil pipeline.
Opponents to the construction of the canal, such as the Coordinadora de la comunidad negra creole indígena de Bluefields (CCNCB), fear the impacts it will have on the biodiversity, and protected areas like Bosawás and the Bluefields wetlands. Opponents also fear the impacts on the Indigenous and tribal people that the canal would displace, such as the Miskito, Ulwa and Creole. To date, the Nicaraguan government has not made public the results of various viability studies.
Since the approval of the construction of the canal, environmental justice and indigenous groups have presented petitions for review to national courts, as well as one to the International Human Rights Commission. In 2017, these groups suffered a setback, when the National Court rejected the petition to refuse the "Law of the Grand Canal”.
Main article: Environmental racism in the United States
See also: Environmental Racism § United States
Definitions of environmental inequality typically emphasize either 'disparate exposure' (unequal exposure to environmental harm) or 'discriminatory intent' (often based on race). Disparate exposure has health and social impacts. Poverty and race are associated with environmental injustice. Poor people account for more than 20% of the human health impacts from industrial toxic air releases, compared to 12.9% of the population nationwide. Some studies that test statistically for effects of race and ethnicity, while controlling for income and other factors, suggest racial gaps in exposure that persist across all bands of income.
States may also see placing toxic facilities near poor neighborhoods as preferential from a Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) perspective. A CBA may favor placing a toxic facility near a city of 20,000 poor people than near a city of 5,000 wealthy people. Terry Bossert of Range Resources reportedly has said that it deliberately locates its operations in poor neighbourhoods instead of wealthy areas where residents have more money to challenge its practices. Northern California's East Bay Refinery Corridor is an example of the disparities associated with race and income and proximity to toxic facilities.
African-Americans are affected by a variety of Environmental Justice issues. One notorious example is the "Cancer Alley" region of Louisiana. This 85-mile stretch of the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans is home to 125 companies that produce one quarter of the petrochemical products manufactured in the United States. The nickname was given due to the high rates of residents diagnosed with cancer compared to the United States average. The United States Commission on Civil Rights has concluded that the African-American community has been disproportionately affected by Cancer Alley as a result of Louisiana's current state and local permit system for hazardous facilities, as well as their low socio-economic status and limited political influence. Another incidence of long-term environmental injustice occurred in the "West Grove" community of Miami, Florida. From 1925 to 1970, the predominately poor, African American residents of the "West Grove" endured the negative effects of exposure to carcinogenic emissions and toxic waste discharge from a large trash incinerator called Old Smokey. Despite official acknowledgement as a public nuisance, the incinerator project was expanded in 1961. It was not until the surrounding, predominantly white neighborhoods began to experience the negative impacts from Old Smokey that the legal battle began to close the incinerator.
Indigenous groups are often the victims of environmental injustices. Native Americans have suffered abuses related to uranium mining in the American West. Churchrock, New Mexico, in Navajo territory was home to the longest continuous uranium mining in any Navajo land. From 1954 until 1968, the tribe leased land to mining companies who did not obtain consent from Navajo families or report any consequences of their activities. Not only did the miners significantly deplete the limited water supply, but they also contaminated what was left of the Navajo water supply with uranium. Kerr-McGee and United Nuclear Corporation, the two largest mining companies, argued that the Federal Water Pollution Control Act did not apply to them, and maintained that Native American land is not subject to environmental protections. The courts did not force them to comply with US clean water regulations until 1980.
The most common example of environmental injustice among Latinos is the exposure to pesticides faced by farmworkers. After DDT and other chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides were banned in the United States in 1972, farmers began using more acutely toxic organophosphate pesticides such as parathion. A large portion of farmworkers in the US are working as undocumented immigrants, and as a result of their political disadvantage, are not able to protest against regular exposure to pesticides or benefit from the protections of Federal laws. Exposure to chemical pesticides in the cotton industry also affects farmers in India and Uzbekistan. Banned throughout much of the rest of the world because of the potential threat to human health and the natural environment, Endosulfan is a highly toxic chemical, the safe use of which cannot be guaranteed in the many developing countries it is used in. Endosulfan, like DDT, is an organochlorine and persists in the environment long after it has killed the target pests, leaving a deadly legacy for people and wildlife.
Residents of cities along the US-Mexico border are also affected. Maquiladoras are assembly plants operated by American, Japanese, and other foreign countries, located along the US-Mexico border. The maquiladoras use cheap Mexican labor to assemble imported components and raw material, and then transport finished products back to the United States. Much of the waste ends up being illegally dumped in sewers, ditches, or in the desert. Along the Lower Rio Grande Valley, maquiladoras dump their toxic wastes into the river from which 95 percent of residents obtain their drinking water. In the border cities of Brownsville, Texas, and Matamoros, Mexico, the rate of anencephaly (babies born without brains) is four times the national average.
Held v. Montana was the first state constitutional law climate lawsuit to go to trial in the United States, on June 12, 2023. The case was filed in March 2020 by sixteen youth residents of Montana, then aged 2 through 18, who argued that the state's support of the fossil fuel industry had worsened the effects of climate change on the their lives, thus denying their right to a "clean and healthful environment in Montana for present and future generations":Art. IX, § 1 as required by the Constitution of Montana. On August 14, 2023, the trial court judge ruled in the youth plaintiffs' favor, though the state indicated it would appeal the decision.
Environmental justice struggles have been a significant feature of social and political movements in South America, where communities have faced the impacts of environmental degradation and resource extraction for decades. In particular, mining in South America has led to conflicts between mining companies, governments, and local communities over issues such as land rights, water use, and pollution. Indigenous peoples in particular have been disproportionately affected by mining, with many communities experiencing displacement, loss of traditional livelihoods, and negative health impacts from exposure to toxic chemicals and pollution. A report by Global Witness identifies South America as the most dangerous region in the world for environmental activists, with at least 98 people killed in 2019.
Environmental justice movements arising from local conflicts in Argentina include
Environmental justice movements arising from local conflicts in Brazil include
Notable environmental justice movements in Ecuador have arisen from several local conflicts:
Notable environmental conflicts in Peru include
Many of the Environmental Justice Networks that began in the United States expanded their horizons to include many other countries and became Transnational Networks for Environmental Justice. These networks work to bring Environmental Justice to all parts of the world and protect all citizens of the world to reduce the environmental injustice happening all over the world. Listed below are some of the major Transnational Social Movement Organizations.
Over recent years social scientists have begun to view outer space in an environmental conceptual framework. Klinger, an environmental geographer, analyses the environmental features of outer space from the perspective of several schools of geopolitical. From a classical geopolitical approach, for instance, people's exploration of the outer space domain is, in fact, a manifestation of competing and conflicting interests between states, i.e., outer space is an asset used to strengthen and consolidate geopolitical power and has strategic value. From the perspective of environmental geopolitics, the issue of sustainable development has become a consensus politics. Countries thus cede power to international agreements and supranational organizations to manage global environmental issues. Such co-produced practices are followed in the human use of outer space, which means that only powerful nations are capable of reacting to protect the interests of underprivileged countries, so far from there being perfect environmental justice in environmental geopolitics.
Human interaction with outer space is environmentally based since a measurable environmental footprint will be left when modifying the Earth's environment (e.g., local environmental changes from launch sites) to access outer space, developing space-based technologies to study the Earth's environment, exploring space with spacecraft in orbit or by landing on the Moon, etc. Different stakeholders have competing territorial agendas for this vast space; thus, the ownership of these footprints is governed by geopolitical power and relations, which means that human involvement with outer space falls into the field of environmental justice.
On Earth, the environmental geopolitics of outer space is directly linked to issues of environmental justice - the launch of spacecraft and the impact of their launch processes on the surrounding environment, and the impact of space-based related technologies and facilities on the development process of human society. As both processes require the support of industry, infrastructure, and networks of information and take place in specific locations, this leads to continuous interaction with local territorial governance.
Rockets are generally launched in areas where conventional and potentially catastrophic blast damage can be controlled, generally in an open and unoccupied territory. Despite the absence of human life and habitation, other forms of life exist in these open territories, maintaining the local ecological balance and material cycles. Toxic particulate matter from rocket launches can cause localized acid rain, plant and animal mortality, reduced food production, and other hazards.
Moreover, space activities result in environmental injustice on a global scale. Spacecraft are the only contributors to direct human-derived pollution in the stratosphere, which comes mostly from the launch activities of rich economies in the northern hemisphere, while the global north bears more of the environmental consequences.
Environmental injustice is further evidenced by the limited research into the effects on downstream human and non-human communities and the inadequate tracking of pollutants in ecological chains and environments.
While space-based technologies have been applied to tracking natural disasters and the spread of pollutants, access to these technologies and the monitoring of data is deeply uneven within and between countries, exacerbating environmental injustice. Further, the use of technology by powerful countries can even lead to the creation of policies and institutions in less privileged nations, changing land-use regimes to favor or disadvantage the survival of certain human groups. For example, in the decades following the publication of the first report on the use of satellite imagery to measure rainforest deforestation in the 1980s, several environmental groups rose to prominence and also influenced changes in domestic policy in Brazil.
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In Sweden, feminists prepare jam from berries sprayed with herbicides and offer a taste to members of parliament: they refuse.