3 Environmental Injustices Happening Now

While the environment might not discriminate (the way humans seem wired to, at least), there are man-made infrastructures and entities that do.

Here are three snapshots of communities struggling to get environmental justice today. Each struggle has its unique set of challenges. The players are different; the stakes and scales are different, too. Yet you don’t have to travel to distant places to find them. I bet you could find a similar struggle in your own community if you really looked.


Ingrid Waldron, a Dalhousie University researcher, found in her early advocacy research that health concerns are high priorities for the traditionally underserved communities in the Canadian Nova Scotia region. According to The Chronicle Herald, Waldron’s research explains how the black and aboriginal communities that she surveyed were worried about the link between their health issues, like cancer, and the widespread garbage dumpster and junkyard sites that were intentionally placed in their communities.

This “dumping” theme continues as Waldron’s advocacy research also highlights the socio-economic concerns that these underserved communities face. Many of the youth are deserting the communities, and they are not returning. Businesses are also choosing not to invest in these communities.


On the eastern Navajo reservation, water is a precious resource. In 2013, the nonprofit organization DIGDEEP brought water to 250 homes on the Navajo reservation. Water scarcity is a real and everyday challenge on the reservation. It’s not uncommon for families to go to extremes, like collecting water from livestock waterers, to barely get by. The water that is managed to be collected is stored outside in plastic buckets and barrels — the perfect playground for bacteria.

As reported in The Navajo-Hopi Observer, George McGraw, DIGDEEP’s founder and executive director, explains how the need for water access can be everywhere — even in your own backyard. McGraw highlights how the Navajos’ water access rate of 10 gallons per day (compared to the average U.S. user’s “110 gallons of water per-person-per-day” consumption) is worse than “‘a lot of sub-Saharan African countries.’” The truth is that toilets and running water shouldn’t be novelties in the 21st century.

Air Pollution

Barbara Filet, a Santa Monica bike advocate, wants to use her Sustainability Bill of Rights to reduce auto traffic along the usually congested Michigan Avenue, which currently acts as a freeway on-ramp. On March 12, 2013, Santa Monica passed the Sustainability Bill of Rights granting its residents rights to “clean indoor and outdoor air and ‘a sustainable climate that supports thriving human life and a flourishing biodiverse environment.’”

As reported in the Santa Monica Lookout, while Santa Monica officials claim that the Bill of Rights makes no specific mandates, Filet believes her cause is an “environmental justice project,” with health implications for Santa Monica residents, and she wants to use the Bill of Rights as a legal resource. For Filet, the multitude of cars along the freeway — 4,200 cars during rush hour alone — is akin to the effects of smoking.

Every community deserves a Sustainability Bill of Rights that holds real weight in the real world. At its root, environmental justice is about human justice. No community is immune, and more environmental injustices could be coming to a community near you.

Photo Credit: United Workers


Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Ruth R.
Ruth R5 years ago

From what I has heard, the area of New Mexico has been dry for many years. The use of water in the area was for hundred's of years something that needed to be carefully monitored.
When I saw the Smith Lake area in Autumn, 2012 the lake was it was named after was pretty much dried up. The people I visited and I were thankful for the little water that was there.

People buy water throughout many places in the U.S.A.
The water -- to be good for many people needs to be filtered, and/or purified by reverse osmoises (sp?) and from some sources distilled.
Buying or getting good stainless steel containers and glass containers is also important.

Plastic gets old and the body says no to plastic after a while -- a means seriously No!

When people drink filtered and/or purified water, and/or distilled water -- the people need to also buy or find a good source of colloidal minerals -- plant-form-minerals that their body can and will absorb.

I hope that these organizations will work together to work this out together for good for each of the people who live in the Smith Lake, New Mexico Area! I hope for you the best at Smith Lake, New Mexico.

Ruth R.
Ruth R5 years ago

Thank you for the information!

Lynn C.
Past Member 5 years ago

It is very painful to see what's happening to our environment and the innocent who suffer. It's even more painful to see people buying what they don't need, and wasting even that. along with the complete disregard for the ecosystem that is dying just so this mercenary lifestyle can continue.

We're trapped!

Fred h
Fred Hoekstra5 years ago

Thank you Jessica, for Sharing this!

Donna F.
Donna F5 years ago

ty for an important article

Oleg Kobetz
Oleg Kobets5 years ago

Thank you

d h
d H5 years ago

In th 1970's I completed a study into housing and communities in a Nova Scotia county, for then Dep't of Health Minister Scott McNutt. My studies in sociology bore out the traffic patterns deliberately designed to hide truths of abuse of Black , Aboriginal, and White poor. The dumps are located close to those communities. Tin shacks like we saw in Haiti, dirt floors, no water so carrying drinking water from ditches; oil drums for heat; no sanitation. Some folks going into the bushes to eliminate. While municipal services were available to the not poor, mostly white community, yards away. Degenerative diseases abounded. Children were discouraged from school attendance. I come from a financially poor family. Poor parents too often do not represent their children. I was told in Grade X1, after scoring the highest 1st Term Economics Mark, by that Course Teacher, and coincidentally the Senior Guidance Counsellor that I was borderline mentally retarded and should request replacement in the General Program. I believed her but remained in the Academic stream because my 2 best friends and Rock 'n' Roll Band Mates were academic streamed. I tutored one of those friends throughout senior high in the arts courses. The old labels don't go away easily. Those experiences made me well suited to represent the challenges and organize the disfranchised to stand up for themselves, and believe children when no one else did.

Natasha Salgado
Past Member 5 years ago

Our population of 7 plus billion spiralling outta control is destroying this planet all it's resources...yet I see strollers everyday adding to further misery.

John chapman
John chapman5 years ago

In the Ozarks, thousands of families haul water because they can't afford the cost of a well.

This isn't anywhere comparable to what's happening on the reservations.

But it does point out another water problem, that most people don't know about.