Environmentalists have made a great effort to tie race into environmental issues in recent times, and now a liberal writer for The New York Times is trying to link pollution problems in a small, mostly black Louisiana town to systemic “environmental racism” in the country.
“This is the kind of scenario that some might place under the umbrella of ‘environmental racism,’ in which disproportionately low income and minority communities are either targeted or disproportionately exposed to toxic and hazardous materials and waste facilities,” wrote The New York Times’s Charles Blow.
“There is a long history in this country of exposing vulnerable populations to toxicity,” Blow said.
Blow is not the first to tie race into environmental issues. For some time now, environmental groups have made a big push to attract minorities and civil rights group to their cause under the banner of “environmental justice.” The EPA even started an environmental justice program in the 1990s at the urging of the Congressional Black Caucus.
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“Carbon pollution standards are an issue of justice,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told environmental activists last summer, tying the fight against global warming to social justice for colored communities. “If we want to protect communities of color, we need to protect them from climate change.”
In December, Natural Resource Defense Council President Rhea Suh called for “justice” in Ferguson, Mo., and other places where police actions killed African-Americans. She said that the “circumstances of these deaths have raised profound questions about this country’s commitment to provide equal treatment, and equal protection, under the law.” Suh also tied the Ferguson shooting in with what she saw as environmental injustice.
“I’ve seen firsthand the ways that communities of color too often suffer first, and suffer most, from pollution that poisons our waters and air, our communities, and our food,” Suh wrote.
Before that, NRDC released a study warning that most of the 5.4 million California residents living within a mile of an oil or natural gas well were “of color.”
“Additionally, one-third of people who live within a mile of a well — 1.8 million people — live in communities that already shoulder a disproportionate amount of the state’s air, water and soil pollution as a result of living close to industrial facilities, transportation corridors, hazardous waste facilities and toxic clean-up sites,” NRDC added. “Nearly 92 percent of those residents are people of color (69 percent Latino/Hispanic, 11 percent Asian, 10 percent African American and 2 percent other).”
NRDC is not alone. Sierra Club President Michael Brune tweeted out an article by club activist Javier Sierra titled “Rolling Bombs: Millions of Latinos Live Next Door to a Public Menace, Oil Trains.”
Sierra warned that Latino communities could become “graveyards” if oil train cars ever derailed adding that “we haven’t seen any real improvements in the safety of these trains” and that the “oil and railroad companies … seem to be whistling past the graveyard.”
In The New York Times, Blow writes about the town of Gibsland, La. — a poor town of less than 1,000 people that’s 80 percent black where he grew up and still has family. Blow chronicles the town’s pollution problems with an ammunition plant that “left untreated explosives laden wastewater from industrial operations was collected in concrete sumps at each of the various load line areas” that emptied into “16 one acre pink water lagoons.” The munitions dump is now listed as a superfund site by the EPA.
“Among the injustices perpetrated on poor and minority populations, this may in fact be the most pernicious and least humane: the threat of poisoning the very air that you breathe,” Blow said.
“I have skin in this game. My family would fall in the shadow of the plume. But everyone should be outraged about this practice. Of all the measures of equality we deserve, the right to feel assured and safe when you draw a breath should be paramount,” he added.
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