What is environmental justice?

May 29, 2008 at 8:38 pm (PERRO) (, , , , , , , , )

Pilsen and pollution

Image from Flickr by Senor Codo

This is the question posed by Green Daily blogger, Leslie Wolcott.

Wolcott asks: “So what is a fair way to deal with the seemingly inevitable pollution that results from the way we live?”

One American environmental organisation, located in the Pilsen neighbourhood of Chicago, is fighting to create the answer to that question.

Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organisation (PERRO) is a grass roots community formed in 2004, by a group of local residents who wanted to challenge the amount of pollution in the area they live .

The group aims to:
  • raise awareness about the levels of pollution in Pilsen and reduce them
  • promote a clean and healthy environment for all, regardless of race or class
  • encourage residents, businesses, industry and social and religious organisations to communicate, in order to create a healthier community for all to live in
  • achieve this without causing jobs or business to be lost
Concern over pollution levels

Wolcott says: “Pilsen is a middle to low income neighborhood in Chicago, and PERRO began in 2004 when local residents wanted to voice their concerns about the Kramer facility, a local brass and bronze smelting plant located in the area.”

PERRO conducted tests for lead and other toxins in the soil and on surfaces in Pilsen and found very high levels in some samples.

This prompted a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency investigation into lead levels in and around the H. Kramer facility.

Victory

In 2006, the EPA reached an agreement with the H. Kramer and Co. on alleged clean air violations at the company’s brass and bronze manufacturing plant.

Wolcott got to speak with Dorian Breuer, a representative from PERRO, after attending a presentation about coal at the Chicago Green Fest.

Wolcott asked Breuer for his definition of environmental justice and in reply he said:

“How environmental justice works from our perspective at least as a community that lives right in amongst two coal plants in the city of Chicago is…if these 2 coal plants, the largest single sources of pollution in all of Chicago…were located in a different neighborhood–there are other neighborhoods in Chicago, for example one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Chicago is Lincoln Park, which happens to be predominantly white, or Caucasian American– if the coal plant was located in the middle of that neighborhood, we end up wondering, would there be as much difficulty in the community…

Environmental injustice

“Questions like why is it that simply because it is located in a lower income community, in a community of color… is it so difficult to get [these polluted areas and plants that continue to pollute] cleaned up? That’s what we think of as environmental injustice.”

For ways you can help, including making a donation to PERRO or offering your skills, visit their website where there is also information about joining a PERRO committee.

Sources: Green Daily blog by Leslie Wolcott and PERRO

For further environmental news stories visit ENO – www.environmentalnewsonline.com

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