Environmental Racism and the Origins of the Environmental Justice Movement

Socialism 2017

August 15, 2017

Trump's proposed budget cuts a third of funding for the Environmental Protection Agency. Among those programs targeted is the Office of Environmental Justice, which aims to address the disproportionate environmental harms suffered by communities of color, the poor, and Native American tribes. The Environmental Justice program was established in 1992 is response to a decade of militant activism by mostly Black and Indigenous people to prevent the introduction of additional environmental and health hazards into their communities. In light of the recent struggles against the Dakota Access Pipeline and for clean drinking water in Flint, Michigan, the history of struggle against environmental racism in the U.S. is particularly relevant. This talk will discuss some of the landmark battles against environmental racism, including the siting of a hazardous waste PCB landfill in a Black community in Warren County, North Carolina, in 1982, and the fight to prevent a sewage treatment facility in West Harlem by a grassroots organization called WEAct. It will assess the strategy, tactics, and overall trajectory of the movement and the response by, and partial absorption into, the federal bureaucracy.

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