Promoting a More Lively Planet

English: Internationally recognized symbol. De...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Kyle Phan

When the earthquake damaged Fukushima a couple years ago, I knew something big had occurred because radiation is not a simple matter. It was only when I came to Japan that I learned from a documentary that the aftermaths of the earthquake are indeed, really bad. People are protesting against nuclear power and the Japanese government must decide where to throw away its nuclear waste. It appears the situation got way out of control, and some people are ignoring the situation. I can’t really blame the people of Fukushima for feeling powerless, but I think everyone, especially countries who use nuclear power, should brainstorm solutions and learn from the situation instead of ignoring it. To prevent future scenarios involving nuclear radiation, the situation must be approached both locally and internationally because an environmental crisis could happen at any given time to any country that uses nuclear power.

In order to improve the conditions at Fukushima, it is really important that the government first stops denying the situation. The people with power need to take responsibility for their decisions of building the nuclear plant at Fukushima and start developing perspective of the unequal treatment of the people of Fukushima. Japanese politicians and any person with power needs to move away from their self-interests (tragedy of the commons) and realize the injustice of the situation because environmental crisis can happen to any person regardless of social background. If the Japanese government has the money, then why not fix the situation and help the victims of Fukushima? Allowing the nuclear waste pile up somewhere or discarding the waste to some poorer area in Japan or even China (environmental racism) is no solution.  If they decide to get rid of the waste like that, the politician must make sure no people inhabit the area, but doing so, either way has implications for the environment which must be handled internationally.

Since dealing with nuclear waste is easier said than done, I think the top scientists of every country that uses nuclear power should collaborate for some feasible solutions because they are the experts on the subject. The Earth is our home and we should work together to alleviate pollution! If we can’t fix the problem right now, we must strive for the future: people all over the world must start pursuing alternative sources of energy! Maybe we should invest in solar panels, or better yet, better funding for STEM research might be the answer. Since Jeffrey Jousan has said the US is partially the reason why Japan first began using nuclear power, I also think US could offer some assistance in cleaning up the waste.  I think everyone would agree that both the poor and the rich are alive because of what the Earth offers: the water you drink, the air you breathe, the food you eat, you’re alive because of the Earth.

Clearly, the current issues goes deeper than what has been mentioned. It is obvious that something must be done with the power differences among the power companies and the Fukushima victims. With that being said, only the Japanese can fix their own problem. The people with power must develop the perspective of the victims and realize that Fukushima are “Japanese” people too. In order for progress to be made, the younger generation needs to stop isolating themselves from the polluted environment (inverted quarantine) and start being getting their voices heard by those with power! Maybe we can’t fix Fukushima, but in order for environmental conditions to change for the people of Fukushima, there needs to be more support for environmental change. The Fukushima moms can’t be out fighting by themselves. Being aware is not enough, it is time for people to start being active in the process! However, it is difficult because of limiting factors such as the cultural values of Japanese people not wanting to appear troublesome to other people and the “lack of freedom of press in Japan.” People internationally also need to start being active with environmental movements because nuclear waste has implications to our home, the Earth.

References

Press Freedom Index 2013″ en.rsf.org. 2013. 11 Dec. 2013. http://en.rsf.org/press-freedom-index-2013,1054.html

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Environmental Racism – A problem with no visible solution

Save our water

Save our water (Photo credit: uusc4all)

by Jonas Horvei

The world as we know it is still very much an unequal society.  It is unequal because how others will treat us in our lives is already to a certain extent pre-determined on the day when we are born. Where we are born, our nationality, our family’s background, one’s looks, and the color of one’s skin and so on all plays different in how others will perceive and treat you. A few weeks ago I learned of another new concept related to inequality and discrimination called “Environmental Racism”. According to the USlegal (2013) definition, environmental racism can be defined in the following way:

Environmental racism refers to intentional or unintentional targeting of minority communities or the exclusion of minority groups from public and private boards, commissions, and regulatory bodies. It is the racial discrimination in the enactment or enforcement of any policy, practice, or regulation that negatively affects the environment of low-income and/or racially homogeneous communities at a disparate rate than affluent communities. (2013, USLegal)

Hand in hand with the concept of environmental racism, we also have the concept of environmental justice. In short, environmental justice can be said to be a movement’s response to solve the issues of environmental racism. It is more or less a social movement who strives to put an end to environmental racism, or at the very least to create a more even distribution of both the benefits and burdens.

According to the basic principles of Environmental justice, the movement strives towards the following goals:

  • For everyone to be protected from environmental harm
  • The elimination of environmental threats
  • That everyone has the freedom to participate in environmental decision making

Whether it is possible to realize these ideals or not is a completely different question. What we can conclude so far though is at least, that social movements such as these do help, and they do have results. Pellow and Brulle (2007) describe in one article how the environmental justice movement has been able to fight against cases of environmental racism in the United States. They describe first how researchers managed to provide conclusive evidence that there was in fact a large bias in hazardous waste sites being located in communities where the majority of the citizens were minority groups. Through years of long battles the environmental justice movement helped stop the construction of over 300 garbage incinerators in the United States just in the period short period from 1985-1998. At the same they also influenced the large decline of municipal waste and medical incinerators also in the United States.

In such cases, we can clearly see that social movements do provide a very important element on the local level to stop the construction of sources of hazardous emissions. They highlighted the issues of environmental racism, and the dangers associated with chemical waste incinerators. Without the environmental justice movement, it is hard to say what the situation would be like, but it is evident that social movements do help.

As can be observed, the movement of environmental justice in America has had a strong impact on American society and has had a positive effect, whereas many of the most hazardous polluters have either been shut down or forced to relocate, and has made it difficult in the creation of new such polluting sources in America. Nevertheless even with such incredible results achieved, I cannot help but having this pessimistic view that there is still a long way to go and that future outlook certainly might not exactly be optimistic as many are to believe.

Then comes the problem, what do we actually do with the waste? With larger volumes of waste being produced, where do we put it, what do we do it? We put it somewhere else and ignore the problem. In my opinion, it seems like we are simply witnessing a relocation of the problem itself, that is to say that the problem is instead being transferred to somewhere else. Due to the influence of globalization, more and more industries take the leap abroad, often to developing countries. In such countries not only are labor costs cheaper, the emission restrictions are often much more relaxed. As a result the developed country can remove its pollution problem from its own border, while at the same time gaining profit from not having it in locating it their home country. So even if we might see an improvement in terms of hazardous waste and pollution in our local culture, it does not necessarily mean that the problem has disappeared. In fact in many cases it is highly likely just that it has simply been relocated somewhere else. America does it, Japan does, China does it, even Norway does it, and every country is guilty of it. For instance you have the case of Thor Chemicals, Inc, who during the 1980s moved its mercury reclamation processing facility from the corporation’s home in England to a village in South Africa. (Harper, Rajan 2004, p.3) Cases on international scale where the Northern countries move production, or move the waste disposal to southern countries are unfortunately far too common.

Then what is the solution to environmental inequality and environmental racism? Environmental emissions, pollution and hazardous waste are some of the biggest problems we are facing on a worldwide scale. There is no easy fix, it is as simple as that. Stricter restrictions, finding more environmental friendly solutions, raising awareness of the problem, and stopping making companies benefit from polluting rather than operating environment-friendly are some of the solutions off the top of my head. That is how we I believe we can minimize the problem. As long as issues of environmental pollution exist, inequality will also exist. As sad as it may sound, this is a natural part of human nature, we discriminate against those who are different. As long as we can get away with it, we discriminate, and as long as it remains more profitable to dump waste in neighborhoods with minority groups, or shipping off tons of waste to the Philippines or Bangladesh, environmental inequality will persist, without taking into account the health of other human beings that do not belong in our local environment.

References

Harper, Rajan. “International Environmental Justice: Building the Natural Assets of the World’s Poor.” University of Massachusetts, August 2004. Web 18.December. 2013. http://www.peri.umass.edu/fileadmin/pdf/working_papers/working_papers_51-100/WP87.pdf

Brulle, Pellow. “Poisioning the planet: the struggle for environmental justice” the American sociological association, 2007. Web 18 December. 2013.

Humans keep discriminating and ruining for themselves

Factory

(Photo credit: TimothyJ)

by Marius Brusegard

Chuck Laszewski mentions the catchphrase “Environmental racism” in his article “The sociologists’ take on the environment”. This phrase means that people with less influence or wealth have to suffer from environmental hazards caused by landfills, hazardous waste dumps and dirty factories. Laszewski further claims that numerous reports have proved conclusively that environmentally hazardous businesses have been overwhelmingly established in poor or minority neighborhoods, hence the phrase “environmental racism”. Politicians were able to bring dirty factories etc. into these areas by claiming that it would increase the tax base and create jobs. Indeed jobs were created, but according to sociologist David Pellow, referred to by Laszewski, these dirty facilities were producing poor economic results, jobs hazardous to the workers, and a new source of toxic emissions in the neighborhood.

These types of environmental hazards have been placed in these areas most likely because of the knowledge about how environmentally damaging the hazards really are. I find it hard to believe that helping these poor areas grow economically was an important part of the siting process of these environmentally hazardous businesses. I find it likely to believe that the economic growth and increase of jobs for the respective communities were used solely as arguments to convince the people of these areas to accept having these environmentally hazardous businesses placed in their areas. This means that the influential and wealthy people are knowingly forcing the less fortunate people to live in an environment damaging for their health. Even if people wanted to move away from this new environment, most of them probably can’t afford it. After all, many of them are living in these areas because they can’t afford living anywhere else. If they were to move to another area within their price range, chances are that they would eventually have to move again for similar reasons.

Another aspect that I find disturbing is that by building these factories etc. in poor areas with lack of jobs, it makes the areas dependent on these factories. There have been some cases of this happening in my home country, Norway. Factories were built in small communities and these communities then experienced economic and social growth. Naturally, many people in these towns got jobs at the factories, and the population even grew because of people moving there for work. However, after several years, the market changed and there were either no more need for the factories, or they were relocated somewhere else more beneficial to the factory owners. This caused a lot of people to lose their jobs, and their lives were abruptly changed. People were forced to move in search for work, schools had to be shut down, and the formerly vivid towns had transformed into so-called “ghost towns”.

The fact that people do not want to have these hazardous factories in their own neighborhoods testifies how dangerous they are. In order to get rid of these problems, we would have to stop producing products that creates hazardous waste, and go over to using natural products as far as possible. However, this means that the human race would have to take some steps back from today’s modern society. But moving backwards does not seem to be something the human mind is set to do, even if this way of moving backwards could result in a healthier and longer lasting environment for the future.

Environmental Class Discrimination Takes on a Global Scale

by Miko Borys

Throughout the 80’s, less affluent neighborhoods began noticing that they suffered a highly disproportionate share of the pollution from the same industry that produced resources for all. Demonstrations such as the one in Warren County in 1982 where 550 citizens protested non-violently and were arrested, or in Southeast Chicago in 1987 where African-Americans blockaded 57 trucks from entering a waste incinerator, were happening all over America. Furthermore, the minority neighborhoods were statistically the most affected, having more toxic waste in their neighborhoods than any surrounding area: “of [the] nine proposed and constructed incinerators in the greater Chicago area… seven were in African American communities and two were in working class and/or white ethnic neighborhoods” (Pellow 90).The lesser chance of litigation in poorer minority neighborhoods supposedly made it an attractive option for industry initially. Groups like PCR, the People for Community Recovery led a movement in the US dubbed the “Environmental Justice” movement. The EJ movement believed, among other supporting ideals, that “all people have the right to protection from environmental harm” and they challenged the environmental inequality all over the U.S. Eventually, they successfully brought reform hindering the proliferation of environmentally unsound civil development. But where did the pollution go?

Thanks to such movements the environmental burdens of industrial development were seemingly abated. But the burdens were not abated in terms of distributing them more evenly, rather they were moved physically until they were no longer local. The regulations passed were so stringent, that environmentally challenging industry decided it would be in their best interest to remove their factories from the country entirely. The regulations and the effects weren’t exactly harmonious with what the EJ movement idealized. Even though the activists succeeded with getting pollution out of their neighborhoods the issue with pollution wasn’t resolved, it was just shifted further away.

Poorer neighborhoods might not be struggling with keeping pollution out as much as poorer countries are now. The pollution haven hypothesis states: when firms from industrialized nations seek to setup factory or office abroad, they will choose the country with the cheapest resources and labor, often at the expense of sound environmental practice. Even though the EPA might be seeing guidelines met in the U.S. for reduced emissions, the resolution might have just been “fancy bookkeeping” from the companies part. For instance, in Oregon the last coal-fired power plant is set to close by 2020. Yet the same town of Boardman closing down the power plant is considering the construction of a new large coal export facility. This coal export facility like others will take Powder River Basin coal from Montana and Wyoming and export it to the less environmentally restricted markets of Asia.

Even when we’re cautious to keep pollution out of our own neighborhoods it still finds its way to the climate through cracks in environmental policy elsewhere in the world. Even though one of the core fundamentals of the “Environmental Justice” movement was for “all people [to] have the right to protection from environmental harm” the movement stopped short when polluting industry crossed international borders. Even once the environmental movements cross borders, will pollution still find its place? Perhaps extra-terrestrially.

References

Environmental Racism” http://www.pollutionissues.com/Ec-Fi/Environmental-Racism.html

“Cutting Carbon Means More than Fancy Bookkeeping” http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2112907,00.html

David N. Pellow. “Garbage Wars: The Struggle for Environmental Justice in Chicago”

Gunnar E. Eskeland and Ann E. Harrison. Moving to Greener Pastures? Multinationals and the Pollution Haven Hypothesis. NBER Working Paper No. 8888. http://www.ncpcbarchives.com/

Environmental justice

by Shoko Inouchi

According to the readings, it could be said that the problem of environmental racism is one of serious issue which we are required to take a prompt action. Paper says the number of incinerator has been increased dramatically. From 1965 to 2002, there were  100 more increased for the number of incinerator. These are incinerator often concentrates on the area where African-American lives. There were also demos for this fact. It says that rich people could live the environment which is very healthy and clean. On the other hand, socially disadvantaged people who are like minority and poor people would be a victim of environmental destruction with ease. Victim of pesticide and a vicious spiral of environmental destruction among developing countries could be said good example for supporting these facts.

In the United States, they made the office of environmental justice in 1992 and report which aimed at decreasing risks of environmental problems for every communities.

Environmental justice is idea for accomplishing environmental conservation and social. The word of environmental justice came from environmental justice movement which was made by criticism for environmental racism in 1980.

Development of environmental justice movement

In 1982, the plan of PCB waste landfill were appeared.In those days, this plan was concentrated on area where African- American lives more than the place where rich people and white people lives. African people were criticised by not only social but also problems of landfill. keeping good environmental place for white people who are already are blessed. However, African people was forced to live in the place where environmental quality was bad. These fact was viewed as problem of environmental racism. For this fact, the demo was conducted by African people. However, more than 500 people were arrested and it was ended up failure. Later , these action became to be symbol of environmental justice.In 1991, policy of environmental justice was adopted in United states. In 1994, Bill Clinton signed for actions od federal government keeping environmental justice for minority and poor people.

According to above statement, environmental justice provides minority with  good quality of environment.

Effect of environmental justice

The idea of environmental justice was stared in U.S’s domestic problem. However,

In 1992, the idea of environmental justice was become to be understood as a global issues after Earth summit in Rio de JaneiroRio. Moreover, in everywhere pollution problem were happened due to economic development.

To sum up, idea of environmental justice is going to be changed. However, one of important things is learning from mistakes. These issues which reading says is important for thinking environment in our future.