Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Environmental Justice

I'm in Newark at the moment, at a GreenFaith retreat devoted to environmental justice.

What does that mean?  I suppose, abstractly, you could say it means "justice in respect of the allocation of the environmental costs of the economy."  But that is way too dry.  Concretely, it refers to the way that communities which are already burdened or oppressed become the preferred location for the dirty operations that no-one else wants - the chemical plants, the incinerators, the huge goods transhipment operations, and so on. 

We visited the Port of Newark with a guide from the Ironbound Community Corporation.  In a few miles around Newark airport are located all the operations I mentioned above, as well as Superfund toxic waste sites, a recreation field "temporarily" closed (for the last 25 years) because of chemical pollution, and a prison.  Yes, warehousing unwanted people is just another "obvious" use for this area.  The Community Corporation is doing amazing work here, but they are fighting against decades of the powerful pretending not to know about the harm done to the weak.

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