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  • Georgia Bates

Tackling Environmental Racism

© Illustration by Unsplash

Environmental racism is a form of systematic racism whereby communities of people of colour are disproportionately being forced to live in hazardous and dangerous environments at the hands of wealthy corporations.

The term ‘environmental racism’ was coined by Benjamin Chavis, defining it as “racial discrimination in environmental policymaking, the enforcement of regulations and laws, the deliberate targeting of communities of colour for toxic waste facilities, the official sanctioning of the life-threatening presence of poisons and pollutants in our communities, and the history of excluding people of colour from leadership of the environmental movement.”

Environmental racism predominantly attacks non-white communities and people of colour are far more likely to be victims of living amongst hazardous waste, poor air quality and chemicals. Raising awareness of environmental racism is crucial in tackling its plight and applying pressure to authorities to amend racist environmental legislation.

Examples of Environmental Racism

Environmental racism occurs globally and prejudicially attacks communities of colour.

Cancer Alley

Cancer Alley is the regional nickname given to an 85-mile stretch of land along the Mississippi river which gained its sinister name after research showed that residents of the area are 50 times more likely to develop cancer than the average person. Notably, residents of the area are predominantly black, and the area has been one of the worst areas for environmental racism globally as at least one person from every household has died from cancer.


Guiyu’s E-waste

Guiyu in China has become one of the largest e-waste sites in the world. Residents of Guiyu had high incidences of skin damage, headaches, vertigo, ulcers and nausea with 80% of children in the area having been poisoned by old computer parts. The majority of electronic waste which has inhabited the area has arrived from domestic and overseas, and the area has become a dumping ground for electronic waste.


Air Pollution In The Bronx

The Bronx in New York is one of the most racially diverse areas in the United States is burdened with disproportionate levels of air pollution in the country. It is predicted that around 20% of children in the area have asthma. One neighbourhood in the south is dubbed ‘asthma alley’ and the asthma rate is eight to twelve times higher than the United States’ national average.


Dirty Diesel in Africa

The exportation of waste from the global north to global south divide has led to a disproportionate number of landfills and toxic air hitting the southern areas. In 2016 European companies were accused of importing “dirty diesel” with dangerously high levels of toxins to weaker African communities. Governments in West Africa have taken action to stop the import and a report from the public eye branded it ‘” illegitimate business”.



Haiti is another area that has fallen victim to environmental racism with one in two people being undernourished and over 50% of the total population existing under the international poverty line. The extreme poverty is a relentless cycle for Haitians as environmental disasters damage the economic progress and infrastructure. Inadequate support is provided by foreign aids and the country is one of the worst places for systematic racism and colonial rule.


How To Help

To achieve an unprejudiced, moral, and greener future- we need to tackle this form of systematic racism. Acknowledging the racial undertones to environmental issues is vital in holding the institutions which have created this problem accountable. Every human being deserves the right to live in habitable environments and breathe clean air without fear of health issues. Educating ourselves on environmental racism is the starting point. This is a problem that attacks people of colour and less privileged groups in many countries at the hands of large corporations and poor environmental practices. Practise self-education, read the news and elevate the voices of impacted communities. The internet is full of resources and information which offers ways in which to help. Representatives need to be held accountable and tackling environmental racism is a political necessity in ensuring a greener and inclusive planet.

Below I have listed several resources that aim to educate and tackle issues of environmental racism:


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