Preparing for the September 20, 2019 Global Climate Strike in Boston, MA.

Environmental Justice in 2019: Impacts and Anniversaries

, Senior Climate Justice and Health Scientist | December 17, 2019, 7:30 pm EST
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This is the third and final blog post in a series on environmental justice milestones in 2019

Impacts & anniversaries

My Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) colleague Jessica Thomas directed my attention to the presidential candidates and the increased appearance of environmental justice (EJ) in their platforms. At least 4 mainstream candidates have specific, detailed policies for environmental justice and/or climate justice (CJ) and others have made mention of EJ on their sites.

The inclusion of EJ/CJ serves as an acknowledgment that candidates cannot expect to get the vote of communities suffering environmental injustices and assaults until and unless those conditions are recognized and addressed in a clear and concise manner by presidential hopefuls.

So many people were impacted by hurricanes over the last few years and each one deserves its own blog post. However, we need to take a moment and remember Hurricane Dorian, the most intense tropical cyclone on record to strike the Bahamas and the worst natural disaster in the country’s history.

From September 2nd through the 6th, Hurricane Dorian, the strongest and most destructive storm of the 2019 hurricane season, doled out destruction in the Bahama Islands and along the eastern seaboard. Dorian brought the beautiful Bahama Islands to their knees. Sadly, hundreds remain missing and the death toll climbs from 60.

The good news…Nassau and Paradise Island, the Grand Bahama Island and the Out Island are open for business while the Abacos Island is still recovering. This underlines the importance of ensuring that our communities are not just surviving, but are resilient and thriving in the aftermath of climatic events.

There have also been several noteworthy anniversaries this year that deserve recognition and upcoming dates that we should be aware of.

 Anniversaries and Notable Dates 2019

  • 50th Anniversary of the June 1969 Cuyahoga River Fire – which was not the first or worst fire on the River. It was the last fire, but it was also a symbol of the mounting environmental issues in the United States.
  • 50th Anniversary of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) – NEPA is one of the oldest federal environmental protection laws, having been passed in 1969. The overall purpose of NEPA is to ensure that the government researches and gives proper consideration to potential environmental effects before undertaking any major federal action, such as construction of a new highway. As part of this consideration, the government must complete Environmental Assessments (EAs) and Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) for any action they contemplate. A guide for communities is available in English and Spanish and serves as a great resource and provides information on opportunities for participation in NEPA related activities.
  • 20th Anniversary of the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA)’s petition asking EPA to allow the Clean Air Act’s use as the first legal tool to address climate change.

Upcoming dates and anniversaries of note for 2020

Yes, this has been a momentous year for environmental justice, and it has been a long time coming. But what it is NOT is the end.

Communities have been fighting environmental injustices FOR YEARS. Sadly, it has taken this long for EJ to begin receiving some recognition. Community stakeholder participation and engagement, policy development and community science are all important components of any plan to address climate change and environmental exposures.

I fully expect to see EJ activities intensify in the coming months and years, because sadly, there is still a great deal of work to be done. It looks like people are finally willing to do the work alongside EJ community advocates and activists.

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