For many of our childhoods, afternoons meant playing on the lawn with neighbors and enjoying the outdoors. Sunlight and fresh air kept us healthy, and there was nothing to fear about going outside.
That is, unless your neighborhood happened to be near a landfill, nuclear power plant or chemical dumping zone. The residents of these neighborhoods have higher probability of cancer, lead poisoning, heart disease and other ailments, according to the National Institute of Health. These health issues are caused by negligence of the landfill, power plant and chemical owners for corrupting the surrounding human-inhabited environments to the point where people have shortened life spans.
We see it in our own beloved state of Georgia. Even here, minorities are unjustly feeling the effects of environmental pollutants. According to GreenLaw, an Atlanta-based law firm that advocates for environmental and human health integrity, areas with a minority population 50 percent or higher have more than double the number of pollution sources than areas where minorities make up less than 10 percent of the population.
Not only that, but areas with poverty levels above 20 percent contain on average of almost six pollution sources, compared to areas with poverty rates under 5 percent that have only two pollution sources. That’s three times as many sources.
This much pollution can lead to low infant birth weights, congenitally slow childhood neurodevelopment and higher rates of cancer in the mothers due to the carcinogens in the air.
It’s sickening that the most vulnerable are the most affected by pollution and the health risks associated with them. Whereas affluent communities have the resources to pay for attorneys and take time off work to go to court and fight the abuse, impoverished communities have less resources to fight back back and back up their voices when communicating atrocities.
It is because of silence that this violence through environmental degradation continues. While groups like GreenLaw exist to fight the injustices on the legal level, citizens can fight injustice on the legislative level through the power of their votes. It’s up to us to use our privileges that this university education allots us to better the lives of people not as fortunate.
It’s all one ecosystem made up of the environment, politics and humans. Everyone is a part of this ecosystem, and people should start acknowledging this fact.