Environmental justice

Published 04 May 2017

“When we talk about environmental justice, we mean calling a halt to the poisoning and pollution of our poorest communities, from our rural areas to our inner cities. When our children’s lives are no longer cut short by toxic dumps, when their minds are no longer damaged by lead paint poisoning, we will stop wasting energy and intelligence that could build a stronger, more prosperous America.” -Former President Bill Clinton
Environmental discrimination is often seen as a product commonly associated with the industrial world in which toxic wastes are unbalancing the environmental equilibrium on one side and affecting the lives of the people on the other. ( Allen, 2001). In coming lines we are focusing on the issue of toxic releases in ‘cancer alley’ also known as ‘toxic corridor’, an area of 83 miles stretching from North Botan Rouge to New Orland. The area is home of a cluster of petrochemical factories pouring out solid waste and gas fumes in the locality. (McQuaid, 2000).

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People, who are effected in this whole scenario, are mostly non party to the transaction. People inhaling the gas fumes and drinking spoiled water coming out of an industrial unit are mostly the Black minority. It is commonly contested that either the statistics shown and agitated by environmental groups and agencies are credible or not. It is also observed that one sided view may lead to erroneous conclusion.(Perline &Setzer, 1997). However agencies like EPA have reported that tons of toxic chemical is being pour out by these petrochemical factories here which environmentalist believe to be the reason of high rate of cancer in this area. . (McQuaid, 2000).

Here, the impact and nature of the threats faced by the people under influence depend upon the intensity of the exposure one have. However, it can be safely said that all the people are open to one or the other threat all the time. People get pollution when they drink, they eat and they breathe. It is worth noting here that not all the areas or communities are in direct impact of these pollutants. Black minority living in toxic corridor is more vulnerable, because they are directly dependant on the water and air around them. One more coordinate which may be added here is the poverty as seen in researches.

In other words, the whole scenario discussed above can be viewed as clash of interests and opportunities. People may disagree as to the extent and positive correlation between race, poverty and environmental hazards, as Couch, Williams, Halvorson and Malone did in their study (2003). But the truth remains the same: cancer rate in this area is abnormally high and is a function of pollution caused by industry situated in this area.

Industrialist has his own goals and the earth lovers have their own grievances against the injustice. World is moving fast towards industrialization and a few areas of the developed world are left over. Environment is clean in either least developed areas or among the countries relying on their agricultural products. Now, there is a need of reconciliation of the interests among the parties. Nobody lives aloof in this complexity of cause and effect and it has to be realized by the stakeholders especially the industrial world that positive dialogue is the only solution.

Forums are there to discuss the matter and agencies are there to monitor but unfortunately, communication to the stakeholders is not up to required level. People, who are ignorant, are the sufferers. Here, no body shall be allowed to drain toxic waste unless treated. Protocols like Tokyo protocol will have to be rectified by all the industrial countries including USA to make the world a better place to live and to ensure environmental justice for the generations to come.


  • Allen, D. 2001. Social Class, Race, and Toxic Releases in American Counties, 1995. Social Science Journal 38, 13–25.
  • Couch J., Williams, P., Halvorson, J., & Malone, K. (2003). Of racism and rubbish. Independent Review, 8(2), 235–247
  • McQuaid, John, Cancer Alley: Myth or Fact, (2000) The Times-Picayune
  • Perlin, S. A., and R. W. Setzer. 1995. Distribution of Industrial Air Emissions by Income and Race in the United States: An Approach Using the Toxic Release Inventory.
  • Environmental Science and Technology 29, 69–80.
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