Environmental racism is any type of environmental injustice that takes place within a racialised context. Climate change is the result of centuries of racism, oppression and colonialisation, and environmental factors that cause harm and lower the quality of life - such as proximity to toxic waste and garbage disposal sites, unsafe housing and facilities - disproportionately affect minority groups.
Environmental racism perpetuates all aspects of life. In 2010 a survey reported in The Guardian established that ‘Predominantly white neighbourhoods have 11 times more green space such as parks, gardens and playing fields than those where 40% of residents are black or ethnic minority’ and this figure has not improved.
Covid-19 has driven home just how much environmental inequality there is in the UK. Public Health Reviews of coronavirus have failed to consider air pollution as a factor in the higher rates of BME deaths from the virus, establishing a racist necropolitik that costs black lives. In August 2009 a census established that ‘the average black or black-British African person in the UK is exposed to 27.25 micrograms per cubic metre of harmful pollutant PM10. This is over 28% higher than the average urban white person’. All evidence shows that climate justice and racial justice are inextricably linked, and the impact of racial inequality on the climate crisis cannot be overstated.
Cut The C.R.A.P
Cut The C.R.A.P is an Instagram account designed to educate people about the environmental impact of their lifestyle choices and about the importance of eco activism. It was started by Goldsmiths students and environmental activists Selina Pirinccioglu and Mine Yanyali, who have collaborated with us to produce this.
If you’re interested in finding out more about environmental racism, check out ‘Polluting the poor: an emerging environmental justice agenda for the UK?’ by Gordon Walker and Karen Bickerstaff, published here at Goldsmiths College in 2000. The paper discusses the rich history of environmental activism by Native Americans and African Americans that has taken place in the US, and the contrasting lack of an established environmental justice movement here in the UK. It’s freely available and a really good intro to the subject.
To delve deeper into the global history of environmental activism, @envirobookclub (a fantastic resource for ecoliterature in general) have put together an impressive list of essential books on the subject:
- Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility by Dorceta Taylor.
- Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism in the United States by Carl Zimring.
- There’s Something in the Water: Environmental Racism in Indigenous & Black Communities - by Ingrid R.G. Waldron (this has now been made into a brilliant documentary on Netflix - take a look!)
- If You Poison Us: Uranium and Native Americans: Uranium and Native Americans by Peter H. Eichstaedt.
- Confronting Environmental Racism: Voices From the Grassroots by Robert D. Bullard.
- Polluted Promises: Environmental Racism and the Search for Justice in a Southern Town by Melissa Checker.
- Garbage Wars: The Struggle for Environmental Justice in Chicago by David Naguib Pellow
- As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock by Dina Gilio-Whitaker.
- Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the National Parks by Mark David Spence.
- The Rise of the American Conservation Movement: Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection by Dorceta Taylor.