An article in this week’s Metro
Times looks at the environmental justice movement here in Michigan in light of this new report.
New report looks at 20-year span of environmental
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April 10, 2007
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Toxic waste and race: Report confirms no progress made in 20 years
ANN ARBOR, Mich.---Environmental injustice in people-of-color communities
is as much or more prevalent today than 20 years ago, say researchers
commissioned to conduct a follow-up to the 1987 landmark study, "Toxic
Wastes and Race in the United States."
The new report, "Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty, 1987-2007:
Struggles to Dismantle Environmental Racism in the United States," shows
that 20 years later, disproportionately large numbers of people of color
still live in hazardous waste host communities, and that they are not
equally protected by environmental laws.
"People of color across the United States have learned the hard way that
waiting for government to respond to toxic contamination can be hazardous
to their health and health of their communities," said Robert Bullard,
director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta
University. Bullard was the principal investigator for the study.
The 160-page report, which was commissioned by the United Church of Christ
and produced by scholars at Clark Atlanta University, the University of
Michigan, the University of Montana and Dillard University, points to the
dismal post-Katrina response in New Orleans as one poignant example of
unequal treatment of minorities in hazardous waste emergencies. The
findings also show that environmental laws don't protect communities of
color any more than they did 20 years ago when the original report was
Paul Mohai, professor of environmental justice at the University of
Michigan's School of Natural Resources and Environment and a co-author of
the report, described the results as dismaying. "You can see there has
a lot more attention to the issue of environmental justice but the progress
has been very, very slow," Mohai said. "Why? As important as all
efforts are they haven't been well executed and I don't know if the
political will is there."
Bullard, Mohai and colleagues Robin Saha, assistant professor of
environmental studies at University of Montana, and Beverly Wright,
founding director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice at
Dillard University and a Hurricane Katrina survivor, are jointly releasing
the full report. An executive summary of the report was released in
February at the annual meeting of the American Association for the
Advancement of Science.
"The cleanup and reconstruction efforts in New Orleans have been
sluggish and patchy, and the environmental injustice may be compounded by
rebuilding on poisoned ground," Wright said.
The report is the first known national study to use a new method of data
analysis that better locates people in relation to hazardous waste sites,
and uses 2000 census data to show that the racial disparities are much
greater than previously reported.
"We think this study and the findings in it, as well as the case studies
that show the human side to the national statistics, make a really strong
case for environmental injustice to be on the policy agenda of Congress,"
Saha said. "It's clear the policies we are trying aren't working and that
something else needs to be done."
More than nine million people are estimated to live in host neighborhoods
within three kilometers of one of 413 hazardous waste facilities
nationwide. The study found that the proportion of people of color in host
neighborhoods is almost twice that of the proportion of those living in
non-host neighborhoods. Where facilities are clustered, people of color
make up over a two-thirds majority (69 percent).
Ninety percent of states with facilities have disproportionately high
percentages of people of color living in host neighborhoods. States with
the 10 largest differences in people-of-color percentages between host
neighborhoods and non-host areas include.
--Michigan (66 vs. 19 percent)
--Nevada (79 vs. 33 percent)
--Kentucky (51 vs. 10 percent)
--Illinois (68 vs. 31 percent)
--Alabama (66 vs. 31 percent)
--Tennessee (54 vs. 20 percent)
--Washington (53 vs. 20 percent)
--Kansas (47 vs. 16 percent)
--Arkansas (52 vs. 21 percent)
--California (81 vs. 51 percent)
Differences in these percentages range from 30 percent (California) to 47
percent (Michigan). Host neighborhoods are typically economically
depressed, with poverty rates 1.5 times that of non-host communities.
The report analyzed the percentages of all people of color in host
communities by EPA region and every region with commercial hazardous waste
facilities had a disproportionate number of minorities in host
neighborhoods. The study also looked at 80 selected metropolitan areas.
In addition to analyzing the total percentage of people of color in host
communities, the report analyzes the percentages of Hispanic/Latino,
African American, and Asian/Pacific Islander separately. For example in
Michigan, which had the largest disparity in the proportion of people of
color living in host neighborhoods, the majority of those minorities
affected were African American.
The report also gives more than three dozen recommendations for action at
the Congressional, state and local levels to help remedy the disparities.
It also makes recommendations for nongovernmental agencies and industry.
The report includes testimonials on the progress of the environmental
justice movement by some of its founders and key leaders. There are also
two detailed case studies, one on post-Katrina New Orleans, and the other
on toxic contamination of an African American community in Dickson, Tenn.
Finally, the report includes a timeline of milestones in the environmental
justice movement that Bullard solicited from environmental justice leaders
around the country.
To see the full report, visit:
For more information:
--Robert Bullard, Clark Atlanta University; (404) 880-6920,
--Paul Mohai, University of Michigan; (734) 763-4598, email@example.com
--Robin Saha, University of Montana; (406) 243-6285, firstname.lastname@example.org
--Beverly Wright, Dillard University; (504) 782-8989, email@example.com
--Clark Atlanta University: www.ejrc.cau.edu
--University of Michigan: www.snre.umich.edu
--University of Montana: www.umt.edu
--Dillard University: www.dillard.edu
--United Church of Christ: www.ucc.org
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