20 years later, EJ still a goal

June 14, 2007

In 1987 the United Church of Christ commissioned and published a nation-wide study done on the environmental burdens placed on communities in relation to their racial and class demographic makeup. The findings revealed a strong correlation between overburdened communities and their demographics, legitimizing the use of terms such as environmental racism and classism and forming a cornerstone of the movement for environmental justice.

In the March 2007 update of the study, Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty, the findings were strikingly similar to the first incarnation, showing the need is still for progress is still quite real.

While in some areas there has been advancement, on the whole environmental justice has been at most half-heartedly embraced and at worst undermined as a policy goal. Several state and national agencies (Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs being among them with their EJ Policy) have added wording signaling a shift, but there remains a serious lack of enforcement accompanying it.

By examining specific cases as well as taking a broader, nation-wide view of the toxins different communities are exposed to, the authors come to the conclusion that there remains a very obvious racial and class-based system of discrimination in the placement of environmental hazards. Take a look at some of the findings and case studies here.