Friday, April 06, 2007

Environmental Racism

One of the biggest "Big Lies" in American politics today is the oft-expressed view that "Green issues" in general only matter to eccentric upper-middle-class Euro-Americans and the Green Party in particular is irrelevant to communities of color.

Black Agenda Report, a progressive African-American web site, has an article posted this week about a new study:

Wasted People: Environmental Racism, a 20-Year Saga

by Dr, Robert D. Bullard
April 4, 2007

Back in 1987, the environmental racism movement won its first significant victory. Twenty years later, a cadre of Black and progressive scientists are calibrating the methodical harm that has been done to Black communities by a society that treats people of color as wasted human flesh. The Bush administration has done everything in its power to silence this growing environmental-racism resistance, cutting off funding to programs that could uncover crimes against whole communities perched on the cusp of disaster - chemical death.

. . .

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the United Church of Christ
landmark 1987 Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States report.
As part of the celebration, the UCC commissioned a new study,
Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty, 1987-2007

Grassroots Struggles to Dismantle Environmental Racism

. . .

Study Findings

  • People of color make up the majority (56%) of those living in neighborhoods within 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) of the nation's
    commercial hazardous waste facilities, nearly double the percentage in areas beyond 3 kilometers (30%).

  • People of color make up a much larger (over two-thirds) majority (69%) in neighborhoods with clustered facilities.

  • Percentages of African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, and Asians/Pacific Islanders in host neighborhoods are
    1.7, 2.3, and 1.8 times greater in host neighborhoods than non-host areas (20% vs. 12%, 27% vs. 12%, and 6.7% vs. 3.6%), respectively.

  • 9 out of 10 EPA regions have racial disparities in the location of hazardous waste sites.

  • Forty of 44 states (90%) with hazardous waste facilities have disproportionately high percentages of people of color in
    host neighborhoods- on average about two times greater than the percentages in non-host areas (44% vs. 23%).

  • Host neighborhoods in an overwhelming majority of the 44 states with hazardous waste sites have disproportionately
    high percentages of Hispanics (35 states), African Americans (38 states), and Asians/Pacific Islanders (27 states).

  • Host neighborhoods of 105 of 149 metropolitan areas with hazardous waste sites (70%) have disproportionately
    high percentages of people of color, and 46 of these metro areas (31%) have majority people of color host neighborhoods.

The only weakness of the article is that it attempts to pin all the blame for the lack of progress on President Bush and the Republicans.

In point of fact, the retreat on environmental racism began during the Democratic administration of William Jefferson Clinton. An article from 2000 in the Miami Herald described how the Clinton-Gore EPA changed the rules to make it harder to pursue legal action against environmental racism.

Clinton Administration Reneges On Commitment To Attack Environmental Racism

by Juleyka Lantigua
July 17, 2000

...But the EPA's guidelines released in late June stipulate that ``both the demographic disparity and the disparity in rates of impact (must be) at least a factor of two times higher in the affected population'' for the EPA's Office of Civil Rights to pursue civil-rights cases against companies.

Environmental racism already is hard to prove. Now it's going to be twice as hard. Ethnic minorities are 50 percent more likely than whites to live in communities with hazardous waste facilities, according to the National Black Environmental and Economic Justice Coordinating Committee, a lobbying organization that represents more than 100 minority neighborhoods in 30 states.

. . .

Blacks in West Oakland, Calif., are concerned by the high levels of vinyl chloride, a gas that has been linked to a rare form of liver cancer. Since the 1950s, the federal land nearby has been used by the military as a dumping ground for biological materials. Some longtime residents and community organizers worry that the rates of asthma, breast cancer and prostate cancer have increased dramatically among black residents.

Nearby Richmond, a black residential area, has the dubious honor of being No. 1 among Bay Area black communities in terms of its pollution level. According to government records obtained by activists, more than 350 industrial facilities handle hazardous materials in the area, and 210 hazardous chemicals are stored or released nearby.

Blogger's Footnote: After nearly another decade of Democratic Party cronyism and incompetence, the good people of Richamond, California elected Green Party candidate, Gayle McLaughlin Mayor of Richmond in 2006.

1 comment:

Wes said...

If you have money and vote, NIMBY works.

If you don't have money and don't vote, NIMBY hurts.