Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, culture, education, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. It is concerned with the fair distribution amongst social groups of environmental quality.
Fair treatment means no group of people should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, governmental, and commercial operations and policies. The Environmental Justice movement grew from concerns first expressed in the 1970s United States, that hazards, such as toxic waste disposal facilities were predominantly located in low income and non-white communities.
Why Environmental Justice is important
1. Living amid industry can affect mental health
While it is acknowledged that living near landfills or toxic dump sites can disrupt physical health, less research is available on how this affects mental health. However, a 2007 study from Social Science Research found “sociodemographic, perceived exposure, objective exposure, and food consumption variables are significant predictors of physical health and psychological well-being,” and that there was “a significant relationship between physical health and psychological well-being,” specifically in low-income, Black communities near a hazardous waste site.
2. Areas with higher temperatures within cities are the same areas that were segregated decades ago.
Neighborhoods with higher temperatures are the same areas that were subject to the racist practice of redlining, in which banks and insurance companies systematically refused or limited loans, mortgages, or insurance to communities of color. This phenomenon explains the “urban heat island effect,” meaning areas are much hotter with fewer places to cool down. In 2019, Los Angeles hired the city’s first forest officer to increase the amount of shade in underserved areas by planting more trees. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti has described shade as “an equity issue.”
3. Environmental racism is a leading cause of death in communities of color.
Many factors threaten the well-being of minority communities, such as discriminatory policing and housing availability, but environmental discrimination is actually the main cause of mortality for these residents. “Air pollution and extreme heat are killing inner-city residents at a higher rate than almost all other causes,” Scientific American reported. “And as average temperatures continue to rise contributing to what scientists call the ‘urban heat island effect’ death and illness from the effects of climate change are expected to rise further.”
4. It is cheaper for a corporation to pollute communities of color than white communities.
“Research has shown that if you have a corporation that has violated environmental laws, the corporation is going to be fined. The fines tend to be lower in communities of color, especially Black communities and poor communities,” Dorceta Taylor, professor at the Yale School of the Environment and author of Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility, tells Teen Vogue.
“Corporations, they’re not idiots, they can see this difference.” Lower fines lead to more pollution, which often decreases the land value of existing homes near a factory or landfill. As a result, more industry moves into the area, creating a vicious cycle. Left with little opportunity for mobility and sparse political clout, the remaining residents are subjected to continually worsening living conditions. “One factor that might be playing into this is whether or not the communities are able to organize and mobilize to push for the cleanup that they should be getting,” Taylor says
Keep Lesotho Clean is aware of our environmental injustice cases especially near Thetsane and Maputsoe Textile Factories, Tšosane Dumping site, and many more. However, we still urge Basotho to separate their waste and correspond with the MCC. The separation of waste makes it easier for entrepreneurs to sort it and recycle it effectively.