What is it?
Environmental Justice is...
- “the fair treatment of all people with respect to the development, adoption, and
enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Environmental justice
is the right to a safe, healthy, productive, and sustainable environment, where
environment is considered in its totality to include the ecological, physical, social,
political, aesthetic, and economic environment.” (National Association of County & City Health
- “the pursuit of equal justice and equal protection under the law for all environmental
statutes and regulations without discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and/or
socioeconomic status.” (1991 People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit)
- “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.” (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)
Why is it important?
Evidence suggests that the risks and benefits associated with economic progress
and changes in land use are not equitably distributed among the total population.
For instance, a factory that emits toxic waste may end up closer to a low income
neighborhood. A concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) may affect the air
and water quality in a rural area where it is more difficult for people to be involved
in zoning changes.
Which came first, the hazardous facility or the disadvantaged population near it?
It is unclear. Whatever the reason, the overall health of a society relies on the
equity of all groups. Societies with the smallest gap between highest and lowest
incomes are the healthiest overall. Closing that gap involves societal changes that
provide everyone with equal choices in matters affecting human health.
What is Washington State doing?
The Washington State Board of Health is committed to reducing
health disparities, including those related to environmental justice.
The Washington Chapter of the Collaborative for Health and the Environment has published
a comprehensive directory of environmental justice organizations and contacts.
Several Washington State Department of Health programs focus on health disparities
among different groups, including Asthma and Tobacco.
For more information
Berkeley Workshop on Environmental Politics(scroll down