Why Environmental Justice Still Has a Considerable or Long Way to Go
The health risks posed by incinerators, landfills, hazardous waste dumps, and polluting factories located in communities, called for the need to enforce environmental justice which is a concept that embodies the belief that everyone is qualified to be protected from environmental pollution and hazards, regardless of their race, age, gender, income, country of origin, or social status.
Over the past few decades, some individuals organized environmental justice movements to prevent the construction of landfills, incinerators, and other types of polluting structures near or within communities inhabited by people.
In addition to the efforts of the proponents for environmental justice, manufacturers and waste industry officials have opined that actions need to be taken to prevent toxic and hazardous wastes from being dumped in anyone’s or any country’s backyard and environment.
However, not everyone accepts this argument; some people believe that the best way to tackle hazardous and toxic waste is to employ or enforce pollution prevention measures and drastically reduce the quantity of waste produced.
Environmental injustice inspired the rise of environmental justice
Past studies have shown that a considerable number of incinerators, hazardous waste dumps, and landfills in the USA were located in areas mostly occupied by Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Americans.
Studies also showed that the noxious or toxic wastes sites located in areas occupied by whites have been decontaminated or cleaned up much faster than noxious sites located in areas occupied by non-whites, especially Latinos and African Americans.
As a result of oil pollution, drinking water sources and farmlands have been contaminated in the Niger Delta region (in Nigeria) which has experienced decades of oil spills and gas flaring which have transformed it into one of the most polluted regions in the world; most times, nothing is done to clean up any mess from the oil spills.
These types of injustice or discrimination, which occurred and still occur in many parts of the world, led people and grassroots to form environmental justice movements and pressurize businesses, governments, and environmental organizations to be aware of environmental injustice and use environmental justice to prevent it.
For decades, countries that are highly or more developed have been transporting hazardous waste to nations that are under- or less-developed; but in 1992, an international treaty called “the Basel Convention” came into effect to control the movement and disposal of hazardous waste.
According to the Basel convention international treaty, more-developed countries are banned from transporting hazardous waste to other countries without the latter’s permission. The treaty was amended in 1995 to ban the transfer of hazardous waste from industrialized nations to less-developed nations.
The general interest in environmental justice was proven by the fact that, in 2009, the agreement that created the treaty had been signed by 175 nations and formally approved and implemented by 172 countries. Out of the 175 nations that had signed, only three (Afghanistan, Haiti, and the USA) didn’t ratify or sign for implementation.
But despite the efforts made, environmental justice still has a considerable or long way to go
Although treaties and bans have helped to some extent, experience has shown that they might not be able to prevent or wipe out all illegal transfers of hazardous waste. In the midst of treaties, laws are still broken, and hazardous waste smugglers use bribes, false permits, and tactics to evade laws and label hazardous wastes as recyclable wastes.
In the year 2000, delegates from 122 countries established an international treaty, called “the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)”, in order to regulate 12 widely used organic pollutants (including DDT) that accumulate in humans; by the year 2009, 152 nations signed a stronger version of the treaty; however, the USA still hasn’t ratified the treaty which allows 25 countries to still use DDT to combat malaria.
In the year 2000, the Swedish legislative assembly or parliament enacted a law that demanded industries to perform risk assessments on chemicals and prove that they are safe to use, instead of waiting for the government to find out whether they are safe to use. Most industries strongly oppose this approach in the USA, especially those that produce and use unsafe or life-threatening chemicals.
As we can see, there is no consensus among humankind when it comes to practicing and ensuring that there is environmental justice. Generally, the Earth as a whole is still being polluted without complete restrain.
A treaty that is accepted by some nations is signed by the nations involved in it, but still not implemented by all the nations that signed the treaty. Also, the acts which some nations consider to be unjust are considered by other nations to be fair or just.
Therefore, the current state of environmental justice still has a considerable or long way to go in order to carry everyone along in the same boat. Until all governments, businesses, leaders, organizations, movements, and people have a common opinion or goal for environmental justice, environmental justice itself may continue having a considerable or long way to go.