Environmental Racism

Environmental racism is placement of low-income or minority communities in proximity of environmentally hazardous or degraded environments, such as toxic waste, pollution and urban decay. While there are competing views as to an exact definition, the interplay between environmental issues and social indicators are key to its understanding.

The primary contention issue in the definition is intent. Some definitions hold that only intentional discrimination against minorities in issues regarding the environment is what constitutes environmental racism, while others focus on the presence of unfavorable environmental conditions for minorities, intentional or not. A significant factor in creation of effective environmental segregation is the fact that low-income communities lack the organization and political power to resist introduction of dangerous technologies, as well as greater mobility of richer citizens away from areas falling into industrial and environmental decline.

Historically, the term is tied to the environmental justice movement that took place in the 1970s and 80s in the United States.[1] There is much discourse on environmental racism in the U.S., and while many of its cases are documented in great detail,[2] focus on cases from other countries is important to have and should be highlighted as well.

On the international level, environmental racism is exhibited by first world corporations exporting dirty technologies, dangerous chemicals or waste materials banned by the domestic laws to developing countries, with lax environmental policies and safety practices (pollution havens).