I appreciate the recent blog post by the EPA Office of Environmental Justice. First, because it is outgoing Administrator Lisa Jackson’s recap on her top priority while she was at EPA and second, because it pays homage to a great community leader. Though I may not be the protesting type, I strongly support those who organize and stand up for fair treatment, which all U.S. citizens deserve. When it comes to environmental protection I support those who stand up for fair treatment even more.
In her final video message, Lisa Jackson spoke about the work of Hazel Johnson. A founder of a Chicago nonprofit called “People for Community Recovery”, Hazel Johnson was often called the “Mother of Environmental Justice.” If you’re new to the term of environmental justice (you haven’t been reading my old posts) it typically refers to the fair and equal treatment of all races so that people do not bare disproportionate environmental impacts such as air, water, and soil pollution.
During Lisa Jackson’s term as Administrator I too have seen a renewed focus on environmental justice. The EPA Office of Environmental Justice released Plan EJ 2014, and 17 federal agencies have continually met to form the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice. I presume Hazel would have been very supportive of Lisa Jackson’s work on EJ, but still concerned that these issues are ongoing. Hazel coined the term “toxic donut” a term referring to encircling industries that were polluting in her Chicago neighborhood. Lisa Jackson saw (as did I during my undergraduate degree) a similar pattern in Cancer Alley, a stretch of industries from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, Louisiana; many of these types of patterns are all across the U.S. from Texas to California to New Jersey.
Hazel’s top priority was for communities to be brought to the decision table when siting industrial facilities. To me that seems like common sense. Sometimes that’s not the case and many community residents are ignored. But progress has been made and toxic sites have been cleaned up, so that should be applauded. However the work is never done. Not until Americans take a strong unified stance on how they use and obtain energy. Open conversations about consumption and energy sources are the only ways to prevent things that Hazel and Lisa have so commonly seen. You can see the EPA Blog post and video here.
A few weeks ago, the largest environmental march to date was organized in Washington D.C.; it was a march from the Washington Monument to the White House to tell President Obama to deny the Keystone Pipeline and reduce our use of fossil fuels. It was organized by the Sierra Club and many local environmental groups across the nation. I wanted to see it for my own eyes so I braved the cold and watched for 30 minutes. The march was organized and civil, and many had signs to reject the Pipeline. After the State Department’s release of a draft environmental impact statement, I don’t think pro-enviros are too happy. I took a couple photos just so you could feel like you were there: