Juneteenth: Amplifying BIPoC Voices
History of the Environmental Movement in the US
Information gathered from:
Ideas revolving around protecting and honoring natural systems popped up in the mid-1800s, and the National Park System is established in 1872 with Yellowstone National Park
The late 1800s and early 1900s are filled with the start conservation groups, such as the Audubon Society and Sierra Club
The 1960s sparks a huge wave of environmentalism, starting with enlightening information about the harms of DDT, the Clean Air Act of 1963, the Wilderness Act of 1964, and many other continuous wins
1968 marks the first strike of environmental injustices, with the Memphis Sanitation Strike. This strike advocated for better pay and working conditions for the workers of the Memphis Sanitation Department.
The early 1970s marks a continuation of the movement that was sparked in the '60s. Starting with the National Environmental Policy Act, which mandates environmental impact reviews, the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the start of Earth Day, all occurring in 1970. The Clean Water Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, and Ocean Dumping Act are passed in 1972, and the Endangered Species Act is passed in 1973. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) was enabled in 1975, limiting trade of and protecting species across the globe.
A major lawsuit in 1979 has set the tone for environmental injustices up to present day. This lawsuit featured African American homeowners who were protesting a landfill from being built within 2 miles of 6 public schools, specifically within 1500 feet of a public school. Although the homeowners lost this battle, it set a precedent for the connection between environmental discrimination, waste regulation, and United States law.
Since the mid '70s, the environmental movement has been loaded with wins and losses, and has been marked with continuous battles, leading up to present day times.
A peaceful protest occurs in 1982 in attempt to halt the construction of a hazardous waste landfill in Warren County. This resulted in over 500 environmentalists and civil rights activists to be arrested, and is known as the catalyst for the Environmental Justice Movement
In the late 1980's, multiple studies were conducted between the correlation of hazardous waste landfills and the racial and socioeconomic status of surrounding communities. These studies found empirical results supporting claims that non-white communities have been experiencing environmental racism.
Many grassroots and governmental organizations have been founded since the late 80s, and have started collaborations with the EPA. Alike the environmental movement, the environmental justice movement has been loaded with wins, losses, and ongoing battles to date.
Air Pollution: According to a study conducted by scientists from the EPA, low-income communities and non-white communities are impacted disproportionately higher more dangerous particulate air pollution from nearby facilities. This can cause severe health issues including serious cases of asthma, heart attacks, and premature death.
Chemical Waste: BIPoC people make up around half of the population living closest hazardous chemical facilities, according to the Center for Effective Government. BIPOC individuals are twice as likely than white people to live near dangerous chemical plants. A disproportionate number of chemical facility incidents occur in BIPOC predominant neighborhoods.
Lead Exposure: Low-income communities are at a higher chance of living in houses which were built before 1978, which is before lead regulations were enforced. That means that individuals living in older houses, especially children, are at a higher risk of lead poisoning due to lead-based paint and plumbing fixtures (including pipes and faucets) containing lead, according to the CDC.
Climate Change: Increased weather events such as natural disasters have a disproportionate effect on BIPoC and low-income communities. These weather events can cause long-term damage or displace residents that are not financially capable of managing these changes, and may have nowhere else to go. For more information, read here
Historical Housing Practices: Previously redlined and racially-segregated areas are found to be hotter than their white-predominant counter parts by an average of 5 degrees. These areas have more concrete, which absorbs and slowly releases heat, and less trees and green spaces, which provide shade and cool the air. Extreme heat is the deadliest weather event in the United States, and can have dire consequences on financial, emotional, and physical health.
Dorceta Taylor - Taylor has been extremely influential in the environmental justice movement and fighting racism in the industry
Robert Bullard - Bullard is known as the Father of Environmental Justice and has worked for decades to fight for those who have been subject to environmental injustices.
John Francis - Francis is known as the Planetwalker after he gave up all forms of motorized transportation after witnessing the devastating effects of oil spills.
Dr. Warren Washington - Washington was the second African American to earn a doctorate in the atmospheric sciences, and has been a role model for generations of scientists from diverse backgrounds. He has been incredibly impactful in his field, earning multiple prestigious awards.
Isatou Ceesay - Ceesay founded the Woman's Initiatie Gambia (WIG) and the One Plastic Bag recycling initiative in The Gambia which empowered women to recycle their plastic trash into reusable products such as purses, and sell them for income.
Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores - Cáceres Flores initiated protests to and successfully opposed the building of a dam on the Gualcarque River, protecting the spiritual importance of the Indigenous Lands. Not only did she protect and amplify the voices of the Lenca People, she inspired thousands to do the same.
Wangari Maathai - Maathai is the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her initiation of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya. This movement planted over 30 million trees and helped over 900,000 women in Africa.
Disha Ravi - Ravi has become a major face of the environmental movement in India as she founded the Fridays for Future India and has been protesting in support for sustainable farming.