Environmental justice

Environmental justice is a social movement seeking to achieve the fair distribution of environmental benefits and burdens associated with economic production. The environmental justice movement began in the United States in the 1980s and was heavily influenced by the American civil rights movement. It has generated a large interdisciplinary body of social science literature that includes theories of the environment and justice, environmental laws and their implementations, environmental policy, sustainability, and political ecology.[1][2]

The original conception of environmental justice in the 1980s focused on harms to certain marginalized racial groups within rich countries such as the United States. The movement was later expanded to more completely consider gender, international environmental discrimination, and inequalities within disadvantaged groups. As the movement achieved some success in developed and affluent countries, environmental burdens have been shifted to the Global South. The movement for environmental justice has thus become more global, with some of its aims now being articulated by the United Nations.


The United States Environmental Protection Agency defines environmental justice as follows:[3]

Environmental justice is 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. This goal will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards, and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.

Political theorists have typically defined environmental justice as the equitable distribution of environmental risks and benefits.[4] Other theorists have attempted to go beyond this definition to identify the processes that bring about inequitable distribution of goods. These extended definitions identify fair and meaningful participation in decision-making; recognition of oppression and difference in affected communities; and the peoples' capacity to convert social goods into a flourishing community as further criteria for a just society.[1][4]

History and scopeEdit

The beginnings of environmental justice as a concept are commonly attributed to the 1982 North Carolina PCB protests in Warren Country, NC.[5][6] The dumping of PCB contaminated soil in the predominately black community of Afton sparked massive protests, and over 500 people were arrested. This led to studies correlating placement of hazardous waste facilities in Black neighborhoods,[7] and widespread objections and lawsuits to hazardous waste disposal in poor, generally Black, communities in the US.[6][8] The mainstream environmental movement was increasingly criticized for its predominately white affluent leadership and constituency, emphasis on conservation, and failure to address these social equity concerns.[9][10]

As grassroots movements and environmental organizations promoted legislation that increased the costs of hazardous waste disposal in the US and other industrialized countries, exportation of hazardous wastes became profitable. Disposal of toxic waste in the Global South escalated through the 1980s and 1990s.[11] Globally, disposal of toxic waste, land appropriation, and resource extraction leads to the violation of human rights and forms the basis of the global environmental justice movement.[11]

International formalization of environmental justice began with the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in 1991. This even was held in Washington, DC and was attended by over 650 delegates from every US state, Mexico, Chile, and other countries.[12] 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.[13]'

Prior to the Leadership Summit in 1991, the scope of the environmental justice movement dealt primarily with anti-toxics; during the summit, it was expanded to include public health, worker safety, land use, transportation, and many other issues.[12] 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, and others.[5]

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.[14][15] In some other countries, poverty or caste (India) are important indicators.[5] Tribal affiliation is also important in some countries.[5] While the original conception of environmental justice in the 1980s focused on harms to certain marginalized racial groups within rich countries, the movement was later expanded to more completely consider gender, international injustices, and inequalities within disadvantaged groups.[16]

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.[17] 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. Integration of environmental protection into human rights law remains problematic, especially in the case of climate justice.[17]

Environmental discriminationEdit

The environmental justice movement seeks to address environmental discrimination associated with hazardous waste disposal, resource extraction, land appropriation, and other activities.[11] This environmental discrimination results in the loss of land-based traditions and economies,[16] armed violence (especially against women and indigenous people),[18] and environmental degradation.[19]

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.[20][21][22]

Hazardous wasteEdit

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 may make waste disposal cheaper. Exportation of toxic waste from the US escalated throughout the 1980s and 1990s.[23][11] 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.[24][25]

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 the waste. After more than ten years of debate, the waste was eventually returned to Pennsylvania.[24] The incident contributed to the creation of the Basel Convention that regulates international movement of toxic waste.[26]

Land AppropriationEdit

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.[16] 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.[16] 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 ExtractionEdit

Hundreds of studies have shown that marginalized communities are disproportionately burdened by the negative environmental consequences of resource extraction.[27] Communities located near valuable natural resources are frequently saddled with a ‘resource curse’ wherein they bear the environmental costs of extraction while the brief economic boom generated by extractive industries leads to economic instability and ultimately poverty.[27] 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 may be associated with armed violence in communities that host mining operations.[18] 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.[28] Petroleum and timber extraction may also be associated with armed violence.[18]

Initial barriers to minority participationEdit

When environmentalism first became popular during the early 20th century, the focus was wilderness protection and wildlife preservation. These goals reflected the interests of the movement's initial, primarily white middle and upper class supporters, including through viewing preservation and protection via a lens that failed to appreciate the centuries-long work of indigenous communities who had lived without ushering in the types of environmental devastation these settler colonial "environmentalists" now sought to mitigate. The actions of many mainstream environmental organizations still reflect these early principles.[29] Numerous low-income minorities felt isolated or negatively impacted by the movement, exemplified by the Southwest Organizing Project's (SWOP) Letter to the Group of 10, a letter sent to major environmental organizations by several local environmental justice activists.[30] The letter argued that the environmental movement was so concerned about cleaning up and preserving nature that it ignored the negative side-effects that doing so caused communities nearby, namely less job growth.[29] In addition, the NIMBY movement has transferred locally unwanted land uses (LULUs) from middle-class neighborhoods to poor communities with large minority populations. Therefore, vulnerable communities with fewer political opportunities are more often exposed to hazardous waste and toxins.[31] This has resulted in the PIBBY principle, or at least the PIMBY (Place-in-minorities'-backyard), as supported by the United Church of Christ's study in 1987.[32]

As a result, some minorities have viewed the environmental movement as elitist. Environmental elitism manifested itself in three different forms:

  1. Compositional – Environmentalists are from the middle and upper class.
  2. Ideological – The reforms benefit the movement's supporters but impose costs on nonparticipants.
  3. Impact – The reforms have "regressive social impacts". They disproportionately benefit environmentalists and harm underrepresented populations.[10]

Supporters of economic growth have taken advantage of environmentalists' neglect of minorities. They have convinced minority leaders looking to improve their communities that the economic benefits of industrial facility and the increase in the number of jobs are worth the health risks. In fact, both politicians and businesses have even threatened imminent job loss if communities do not accept hazardous industries and facilities. Although in many cases local residents do not actually receive these benefits, the argument is used to decrease resistance in the communities as well as avoid expenditures used to clean up pollutants and create safer workplace environments.[33]

Cost barriersEdit

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.[34] 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.[35] 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.[36]

Overcoming BarriersEdit

Viewing their communities as disproportionately impacted by environmental degradation and disproportionately denied access to movements claiming to redress this, many organizations by and for racialized communities and low-wealth groups began to form in the 1970s and 80s to address environmental injustices. Their work has come to collectively form the backbone of the contemporary environmental justice movement, whose guiding principles were especially documented during the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in 1991.[37] Participants in this Summit established 17 particular Principles of Environmental Justice.[38]

Contributions of the Civil Rights MovementEdit

During the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, activists participated in a social movement that created a unified atmosphere and advocated goals of social justice and equality. The community organization and the social values of the era have translated to the Environmental Justice movement.[32]

Similar goals and tacticsEdit

The Environmental Justice movement and the Civil Rights Movement have many commonalities. At their core, the movements' goals are the same: "social justice, equal protection, and an end to institutional discrimination." By stressing the similarities of the two movements, it emphasizes that environmental equity is a right for all citizens. Because the two movements have parallel goals, it is useful to employ similar tactics that often emerge on the grassroots level. Common confrontational strategies include protests, neighborhood demonstrations, picketing, political pressure, and demonstration.[39]

Existing organizations and leadersEdit

Just as the civil rights movement of the 1960s began in the South, the fight for environmental equity has been largely based in the South, where environmental discrimination is most prominent. In these southern communities, black churches and other voluntary associations are used to organize resistance efforts, including research and demonstrations, such as the protest in Warren County, North Carolina. As a result of the existing community structure, many church leaders and civil rights activists, such as Reverend Benjamin Chavis Muhammad, have spearheaded the Environmental Justice movement.[39]

The Bronx, in New York City, has become a recent example of Environmental Justice succeeding. Majora Carter spearheaded the South Bronx Greenway Project, bringing local economic development, local urban heat island mitigation, positive social influences, access to public open space, and aesthetically stimulating environments. The New York City Department of Design and Construction has recently recognized the value of the South Bronx Greenway design, and consequently utilized it as a widely distributed smart growth template. This venture is the ideal shovel-ready project with over $50 million in funding.[40]


Some environmental justice lawsuits have been based on civil rights laws. The first case to claim environmental discrimination in the siting of a waste facility under civil rights law was Bean v. Southwestern Waste Management, Inc. (1979). With the legal representation of Linda McKeever Bullard, residents of Houston's Northwood Manor opposed the decision of the city and Browning Ferris Industries to construct a solid waste facility near their mostly African-American neighborhood.[41] Although the Northwood Manor residents lost the case, there were several lasting outcomes: the city of Houston later restricted the dumping of waste near public facilities such as schools; the strategy of using civil rights law in environmental justice cases was adopted in other cases, and Bullard’s husband (Robert Bullard) became an increasingly visible scholar and writer on environmental justice.[42][43][44]

The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment has been used in many environmental justice cases.[32] This strategy requires that the plaintiff prove discriminatory intent on the part of the defendant, which is very difficult and has never been done in an environmental justice case.[41]

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has also been used in lawsuits that claim environmental inequality. The two most relevant sections in these cases are sections 601 and 602. section 601 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin by any government agency receiving federal funds. To win an environmental justice case that claims an agency violated this statute, the plaintiff must prove the agency intended to discriminate. Section 602 requires agencies to create rules and regulations that uphold section 601. This section is useful because the plaintiff must only prove that the rule or regulation in question had disparate impact. While disparate impact is much easier to demonstrate than discriminatory intent, cases brought under section 602 are not typically successful.[42] It is also unclear whether citizens have right of action to sue under section 602. In Seif v. Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living (1998), a district court determined that residents did not have right of action; but this decision was overturned in an appeal. When the case went to the supreme court, the case was dismissed as moot because the plaintiff had withdrawn their permit. Earlier decisions in the lower courts were vacated, leaving no judgment on the books establishing citizen right of action for section 602.[41][32]

Successful environmental justice litigation has typically used environmental law or tort law. While cases brought under civil rights law may have political advantages, these cases are not typically successful in court.[41][42]

Contributions of the Reproductive Justice MovementEdit

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 inextricably "linked directly to the conditions in her community – and these conditions are not just a matter of individual choice and access."[45] Such conditions include those central to environmental justice—including the siting of toxic contamination and pollution of food, air, and waterways. Mohawk midwife Katsi Cook helps illustrate one link between reproductive and environmental justice when she explains, "at the breasts of women flows the relationship of those generations both to society and to the natural world. In this way the earth is our mother, grandma says. In this way, we as women are the earth."[46] 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 brought to the fore one of the many intersections between reproductive and environmental justice.[47]

Affected groupsEdit

Among the affected groups of Environmental Justice, those in high-poverty and racial minority groups have the most propensity to receive the harm of 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.[48] This does not account for the inequity found among individual minority groups. 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.[49]

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 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.[50] 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.[51] 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.[50]

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.[50] 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.[52]

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.[53]

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.[54] 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.[55] Northern California's East Bay Refinery Corridor is an example of the disparities associated with race and income and proximity to toxic facilities.[56]

It has been argued that environmental justice issues generally tend to affect women in communities more so than they affect men. This is due to the way that women typically interact more closely with their environments at home, such as through handling food preparation and childcare. Women also tend to be the leaders in environmental justice activist movements. Despite this, it tends not to be considered a mainstream feminist issue.[57]

Current activitiesEdit

In 2019, the Democratic party held the First-Ever Presidential Forum on Environmental Justice.[58]

Around the worldEdit

In recent years environmental justice campaigns have also emerged in other parts of the world, such as India, South Africa, Israel, Nigeria, Mexico, Hungary, Uganda, and the United Kingdom. In Europe for example, there is evidence to suggest that the Romani people and other minority groups of non-European descent are suffering from environmental inequality and discrimination.[59][60]


For further information, see Environmental racism in Europe

In Europe, the Romani peoples are ethnic minorities and differ from the rest of the European people by their culture, language, and history. The environmental discrimination that they experience ranges from the unequal distribution of environmental harms as well as the unequal distribution of education, health services and employment. In many countries Romani peoples are forced to live in the slums because many of the laws to get residence permits are discriminatory against them. This forces Romani people to live in urban "ghetto" type housing or in shantytowns. In the Czech Republic and Romania, the Romani peoples are forced to live in places that have less access to running water and sewage, and in Ostrava, Czech Republic, the Romani people live in apartments located above an abandoned mine, which emits methane. Also in Bulgaria, the public infrastructure extends throughout the town of Sofia until it reaches the Romani village where there is very little water access or sewage capacity.[61]

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.[61] Europe also funds action-oriented projects that work on furthering Environmental Justice throughout the world. For example, EJOLT (Environmental Justice Organisations, Liabilities and Trade) is a large multinational project supported through the FP7 Science in Society budget line from the European Commission.[further explanation needed] From March 2011 to March 2015, 23 civil society organizations and universities from 20 countries in Europe, Africa, Latin-America, and Asia are, and have promised to work together on advancing the cause of Environmental Justice. EJOLT is building up case studies, linking organisations worldwide, and making an interactive global map of Environmental Justice.[62] A recent study of Environmental justice in Natura 2000 notes that an environmental just policy can empower residents with the capacity to initiate social change. In return, this social change modifies the form that empowerment will take [12].


Sweden became the first country to ban DDT in 1969.[63] In the 1980s, women activists organized around preparing jam made from pesticide-tainted berries, which they offered to the members of parliament.[64][65] Parliament members refused, and this has often been cited as an example of direct action within ecofeminism.

United KingdomEdit

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.[66] 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.[67] 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.[68][69] 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.[70] The Environmental Justice Foundation has successfully petitioned large retailers such as Wal-mart and Tesco to stop selling Uzbek cotton.[71]

Building of alternatives to climate changeEdit

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.

South AfricaEdit

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 (www.earthlife.org.za), 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.[72]

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

  1. prevent pollution and ecological degradation;
  2. promote conservation; and
  3. secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development".[72]

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.[73] There have been several deaths and debilitating diseases from work-related illnesses like asbestosis.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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.[72]

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."[72]


In Australia, the "Environmental Justice Movement" is not defined as it is in the United States. Australia does have some discrimination mainly in the siting of hazardous waste facilities in areas where the people are not given proper information about the company. The injustice that takes place in Australia is defined as environmental politics on who get the unwanted waste site or who has control over where factory opens up. The movement towards equal environmental politics focuses more on who can fight for companies to build, and takes place in the parliament; whereas, in the United States Environmental Justice is trying to make nature safer for all people.[74]


An example of the environmental injustices that indigenous groups face can be seen in the Chevron-Texaco incident in the Amazon rainforest. Texaco, which is now Chevron, found oil in Ecuador in 1964 and built sub-standard oil wells to cut costs.[75] The deliberately used inferior technology to make their operations cheaper, even if detrimental to the local people and environment. After the company left in 1992, they left approximately one thousand toxic waste pits open and dumped billions of gallons of toxic water into the rivers.[75]


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.[76]

Environmental Justice is guarded by and protected by the 2010 constitution, with legal procedures against damaging practices and funding from the national government and external donors to secure a clean, healthy and Eco-balanced environment. Nairobi, however, continues to experience poor environmental protection, with the Nairobi River always clogging and being emptied, an issue that the Government blames on high informal sector and business development in the city. the sector has poor waste disposals, leading to pollution.

South KoreaEdit

South Korea has a relatively short history of environmental justice compared to other countries in the west. As a result of rapid industrialization, people started to have awareness on pollution, and from the environmental discourses the idea of environmental justice appeared. The concept of environmental justice appeared in South Korea in late 1980s.[77]

South Korea experienced rapid economic growth (which is commonly referred to as the 'Miracle on the Han River') in the 20th century as a result of industrialization policies adapted by Park Chung-hee after 1970s. The policies and social environment had no room for environmental discussions, which aggravated the pollution in the country.[78]

Environmental movements in South Korea started from air pollution campaigns. As the notion of environment pollution spread, the focus on environmental activism shifted from existing pollution to preventing future pollution, and the organizations eventually started to criticize the government policies that are neglecting the environmental issues.[79] The concept of environmental justice was introduced in South Korea among the discussions of environment after 1990s. While the environmental organizations analyzed the condition of pollution in South Korea, they noticed that the environmental problems were inequitably focused especially on regions where people with low social and economic status were concentrated.

The problems of environmental injustice have arisen by environment related organizations, but approaches to solve the problems were greatly supported by the government, which developed various policies and launched institution. These actions helped raise awareness of environmental justice in South Korea. Existing environment policies were modified to cover environmental justice issues.

Environmental justice began to be widely recognized in the 1990s through policy making and researches of related institutions. For example, the Ministry of Environment, which was founded in 1992, launched Citizen's Movement for Environmental Justice (CMEJ) to raise awareness of the problem and figure out appropriate plans.[80] As a part of its activities, Citizen's Movement for Environmental Justice (CMEJ) held Environmental Justice forum in 1999, to gather and analyze the existing studies on the issue which were done sporadically by various organizations. Citizen's Movement for Environmental Justice (CMEJ) started as a small organization, but it is keep growing and expanding. In 2002, CMEJ had more than 5 times the numbers of members and 3 times the budget it had in the beginning year.[81][82]

Environmental injustice is still an ongoing problem. One example is the construction of Saemangeum Seawall. The construction of Saemangeum Seawall, which is the world's longest dyke (33 kilometers) runs between Yellow Sea and Saemangeum estuary, was part of a government project initiated in 1991.[83] The project raised concerns on the destruction of ecosystem and taking away the local residential regions. It caught the attention of environmental justice activists because the main victims were low-income fishing population and their future generations. This is considered as an example of environmental injustice which was caused by the execution of exclusive development-centered policy.

The construction of Seoul-Incheon canal also raised environmental justice controversies.[84] The construction took away the residential regions and farming areas of the local residents. Also, the environment worsened in the area because of the appearance of wet fogs which was caused by water deprivation and local climate changes caused by the construction of canal. The local residents, mostly people with weak economic basis, were severely affected by the construction and became the main victims of such environmental damages. While the socially and economically weak citizens suffered from the environmental changes, most of the benefits went to the industries and conglomerates with political power.

Construction of industrial complex was also criticized in the context of environmental justice. The conflict in Wicheon region is one example. The region became the center of controversy when the government decided to build industrial complex of dye houses, which were formerly located in Daegu metropolitan region. As a result of the construction, Nakdong River, which is one of the main rivers in South Korea, was contaminated and local residents suffered from environmental changes caused by the construction.[85][86]

Environmental justice is a growing issue in South Korea. Although the issue is not yet widely recognized compared to other countries, many organizations beginning to recognize the issue.[87]

Transnational movement networksEdit

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.[24]

Energy and Environmental JusticeEdit

While looking at nuclear power, coal, oil and gas, biomass, and hydroelectric power, one can see potential environmental justice issues with each energy option.

Nuclear Power:

  • Nuclear power has disproportionately affected communities of color in the past. This impact has occurred by mining uranium on Native American lands,[91] placing uranium enrichment facilities in Black and Hispanic communities, and placing “low-level” nuclear waste disposal sites in non-white communities.[92]
  • Nuclear reactors, especially older ones, have a higher potential to pollute the surrounding air and water with radioactive pollution.
  • In the United States, new nuclear power reactors are being planned and built. One of the most recently planned and built nuclear reactor is located in Claiborne County, Mississippi, a demographically 82% African-American county.[93]
  • A study published in 2009[94] found that the currently operating nuclear reactors are predominantly concentrated in the Southeastern U.S. and that the reactors are typically found in low-income communities.


  • 68% of African-Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-powered energy source. This distance is close enough in which the smokestack plume and pollution’s maximum effects are expected to occur. In contrast, around 56% of the white population lives within 30 miles of these coal-powered plants. These statistics show that coal-powered plants disproportionately affect African-American communities.[95]
  • Coal mining has harmed low-income rural communities in the Appalachian Mountain area. The mountains in these areas are being demolished, and the valleys are being filled with coal waste. This waste then pollutes the air and local water utilized by the region’s plants, animals, and people.[96]

Oil and Gas

  • New gas and oil pipelines have been proposed to be built around the United States. One proposed project would construct an Alaskan natural gas pipeline to deliver natural gas to the lower continental 48 states. The areas in which this oil and gas drilling would occur in Northern Alaska are inhabited mainly by Native Americans.[97] These Native Americans rely on the health of the environment and the wildlife in the area, and this drilling has the potential to harm this.

Biomass Incineration

  • Incinerators have largely been located in low-income and or minority communities. The pollution that these plants give off contaminated the local air and water systems. The results of these biomass incineration facilities can lead to an increase in disability and disease, which will lead to increased medical costs for these low-income areas.[citation needed]

Hydroelectric Power

  • Proposed hydroelectric dams in Canada would flood large areas of land that are traditional Native American lands. This process would displace these people from their homes while also harming their historical sites and burial grounds in these areas.[98]
  • These hydroelectric dams can cause methane to be released when the vegetation is flooded. This pollution can contaminate the water sources and the animals that live in the water, potentially harming those who drink this water and eat the fish from the contaminated water source.[99]

See alsoEdit


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Further readingEdit

External linksEdit