The crime that environmental justice addresses is a challenge to wholly grasp. Carelessly discarding toxic waste that will kill and maim people is a true but misleading definition. Sometimes the perpetrators are not careless or arbitrary. Sometimes the polluters pretend that consequences do not exist, even to the point of creating media campaigns to bolster their claims. Remember clean coal? When the people of the Biblical era began to identify and address the need for justice, they had an inkling of the human potential to kill myriads, but no context of how far some humans are willing to go.
The term “environmental justice” is complex as well, easy to understand from a surface reading yet complicated once one delves into the subject. The fact to know is the highest carbon producing and toxic generating facilities and factories are deliberately located in black and brown communities. Indigenous communities are not far behind. Factories close and the owners take no responsibility for the lethal consequences they leave behind because they took no responsibility while the factories ran.
Environmental justice is endemic, having been with us since the origins of the industrial revolution. Cleaning up one’s industrial messes were never mandated, or the mandates were rendered toothless. The common false claims such as “paying for it will cost jobs” or “we’ll go bankrupt, and no one will have a job” or “we gave them a community (jobs); they should take some responsibility” highlight how deeply buried in the fabric of the economy and the culture the supposed “right to pollute” runs.
The environmental cost of doing business is hardly ever, if ever, factored into corporate business plans. The cost of carbon and environmental pollutions is not included as a debit line in accounting spreadsheets.* A tech company can claim they are “carbon neutral,” but not only did they build that way to save money, they ignored the other environmental degradations they precipitated. The city, the county, the state, or sometimes even the federal government are left with the poisonous consequences. Corporations takes their profits and leave the taxpayers with the environmental costs, which run into the billions, if not the trillions now.
We must convert to a clean renewable energy economy, which will run into trillions of dollars. Where are the additional trillions of dollars to clean up the toxic waste we have now going to come from? From where will the additional money come from to pay for the asthma, the cancers, and the other circulatory and respiratory illnesses caused by these known toxins already present in neighborhoods in every state?
You want to do justice? Then, get angry. Start asking questions. Challenge zoning boards. Demand municipal and county leaders address environmental consequences. Teach your friends and your neighbors. Force the issue into the local news. Preach it.
You want to do justice, which makes you a descendent of the prophets. Taking up the yoke of the commandments is not an easy task, but in every generation, believers have harkened to the call.