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Problems of Environmental Racism Essay

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Updated: Aug 6th, 2019

This paper is aimed at discussing various aspects of environmental racism. In particular, it is important to discuss the forms that this discrimination can take. Furthermore, one should focus on case studies that can illustrate such practices and their long-term impacts. One should keep in mind that environmental racism can adversely influence many people who can be disadvantaged due to their race or income level.

As a rule, this form of discrimination can be described as irresponsible policies of companies and governmental organizations. Sometimes their representatives can disregard the interests of some communities simply because such decisions may not be punished.

Moreover, those people, who are harmed by environmental racism, are not perceived as important stakeholders. These are the main questions that should be examined in greater detail.

Overall, the term has often been defined as “a racial discrimination in environmental policy making” (Gaard and Murphy 140). For instance, African-American communities could often be exposed to such a risk (Pellow 68).

However, in the modern context, the notion can refer to any environmental policy or practice that can endanger a certain group which can be marked by race, ethnicity, income level, or other characteristics (Gaard and Murphy 140).

This broad definition is particularly important nowadays when many businesses based in advanced countries have an opportunity to operate abroad, especially in those regions in which the rights of individuals are not properly protected. It should be noted that in the course of history, minority reports have often been victimized by environmental policies of the government.

For instance, one can speak about the construction of landfills in close proximity to certain communities (Pellow 68). Moreover, it is possible to mention the storage of hazardous waste near the settlements inhabited by the representatives of minority groups. One can argue that nowadays the problem of environmental racism has changed significantly.

At present, such practices can be explained by the absence of environmental laws in some countries. This loophole is always exploited by international companies that do not want to spend extra costs on the adoption of eco-friendly technologies. These are the main examples that should be discussed more closely.

One should keep in mind that environmental racism produces negative effects on a variety of stakeholders. For instance, it is possible to speak about significant health problems originating from air and water pollution (Sze 13). It is critical to mention that these effects can manifest themselves for a long time. Additionally, policy-makers should pay close attention to the economic consequences of such practices.

In particular, many industries such as agriculture or fishing can be adversely affected (Sze 13). To a great extent, these factors can contribute to the dilapidation of many communities. These are some of the main aspects that can be distinguished. They should be taken into account by policy-makers who may take decisions affecting thousands of people and their children.

It is possible to mention several case studies that can throw light on the nature of this problem. At first, one should discuss such a community as Altgeld Gardens which was built specifically for African-American war veterans. The main problem is that this settlement was constructed on the territory of a former landfill.

Moreover, it was surrounded by recycling plants. Currently, this community is surrounded by 36 hazardous waste facilities (Pellow 68). Additionally, one should speak about cement plants, oil refineries, waste lagoons, or coke ovens (Pellow 68). Admittedly, this situation can be partly attributed to the legacies of racist policies which existed in the United States in the first half of the twentieth century.

Nevertheless, the effects of such practices are still palpable nowadays because the residents of this community are more exposed to the risks of various illnesses such as cancer.

This issue attracted much attention of the public in the seventies and eighties when many environmental activities focused on the discrimination of minority groups (Pellow 69). Furthermore, one can say that the legacies of environmental racism can be palpable for a long time. This is why this example should not be overlooked by policy-makers.

Furthermore, one can discuss the construction of PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) landfill in Warren County. It should be mentioned that this community was also inhabited predominantly by black people whose interests could be simply disregarded (Steady 65). Apart from that, policy-makers were informed about the possible threats of water and soil contamination (Steady 65).

Moreover, they assured environmental activists and representatives of the local community that the risks of such events were completely eliminated. Nevertheless, the later investigation proved that the misgivings of many people had been justified.

In 2003, it was finally accepted that the constructions of the PCB landfill led to the contamination of water, and the government was forced to spend money on the detoxification program (Steady 65). Thus, one cannot suppose that such activities can go completely unnoticed. These examples show that environmental racism can eventually result in significant expenses for the government.

Certainly, governmental institutions did not admit that the policy-makers had deliberately targeted by minority communities. Nevertheless, these groups were much more vulnerable. This is one of the arguments that can be put forward.

There are other important examples of environmental racism. To some degree, these cases can be partly attributed to the differences in the economic and social development of different states. Currently, many companies based in advanced countries prefer to outsource some of their operations overseas. Sometimes, their activities can pose a threat to the community.

For example, one can mention the notorious Bhopal catastrophe that took place in India in 1994 (Prashad 186). It gave rise to many debates about environmental racism. It should be noted that there was a gas leak in the pesticide plant operated by the company Union Carbide. As a result, more than 8.000 people died (Prashad 186). Currently, Bhopal has not overcome the effects of this disaster.

One should also keep in mind that the company violated many of the safety norms. More importantly, they did not immediately inform medical workers about the dangers of the gas which was leaked. This is one of the reasons why there were so many casualties (Prashad 186).

This case has attracted so much attention because it highlighted the importance of environmental regulations and social responsibility which are critical for the safety of the community. One should keep in mind that the construction of such a plant would have almost impossible in any developed country.

Moreover, organizations that run such facilities are forced to comply with a great number of safety regulations. In turn, India was selected because it did not have the stringent environmental legislation adopted in the United States or other countries. To a great extent, such practices can also be compared to environmental racism.

Certainly, this case differs from the previous ones, because the company that constructed and operated this plant did not hold any prejudice against people living in Bhopal. More likely, they just wanted to reduce operational costs by opening a plant in India, a country in which environmental regulations was not properly enforced at least in the eighties (Prashad 186).

This is one of the main distinctions that should be considered. Still, in each of the three cases, the residents of local communities were regarded as unimportant stakeholders whose opinions could be easily disregarded.

Furthermore, the decision-makers, who implemented these policies, did not expect any legal challenges. This is one of the main similarities that can be identified. Thus, this discrimination can take place many forms and it can exist at an international level.

On the whole, these examples indicate that environmental racism can take many forms. Nevertheless, in each case, one can speak about a group of people who can be disadvantaged by governmental or private organizations. Furthermore, the cases discussed in this paper illustrate that the consequences of environmental racism. Sometimes, such a policy can result in the deaths of many people.

Moreover, one should not overlook the economic impacts of such activities. To a great extent, the existence of environmental racism can be explained by the fact that policy-makers simply choose to disregard the interests of some stakeholders. The rights of these individuals were not properly protected because of racial prejudices or low income level. These are the main aspects that can be distinguished.

Works Cited

Gaard, Greta, and Patrick Murphy. Ecofeminist Literary Criticism: Theory, Interpretation, Pedagogy, Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1998. Print.

Pellow, David. Garbage Wars: the Struggle for Environmental Justice in Chicago, Boston, MIT Press, 2003. Print.

Prashad, Vijay. The Karma of Brown Folk, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000. Print.

Steady, Filomina. Environmental Justice in the New Millennium, New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Print.

Sze, Julie. Noxious New York: The Racial Politics of Urban Health and Environmental Justice, Boston: MIT Press, 2005. Print.

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