The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is planning to open a new office that it says will not only double down on its efforts to confront environmental justice but will do so by pledging billions of dollars to the communities that have gone neglected for so long.
The new Office of Environmental Justice and Civil Rights is being spearheaded by EPA Administrator Michael Regan, the first Black man to lead the federal agency that oversees “protects people and the environment from significant health risks, sponsors and conducts research, and develops and enforces environmental regulations,” as its website describes.
“In the past, many of our communities have had to compete for very small grants because EPA’s pot of money was extremely small,” Regan told the Associated Press. “We’re going from tens of thousands of dollars to developing and designing a program that will distribute billions. But we’re also going to be sure that this money goes to those who need it the most and those who’ve never had a seat at the table.”
In case you’re unfamiliar with what environmental justice is exactly, we’ve got you covered.
Think of ongoing environmental crises the country is currently experiencing, like the water crisis in Mississippi’s capital city of Jackson, or how Black and brown families who live near highways experience a disproportionate rate of asthma diagnoses.
Those are prime examples of environmental justice, or a lack thereof, which is typically described as environmental racism because of those who are primarily affected by it.
Racism isn’t always seen or heard. Sometimes it’s hidden inside the systems that make America function. But you don’t need to see it for its impact to be disastrous to Black Americans.
When most people think of an environmental crisis they think of climate change, which is understandable since it’s arguably the biggest issue young people face today. But what is always left out of the conversation is the fact that climate change disproportionately affects people of color and it’s not an accident, it’s environmental racism.
Environmental racism is defined as environmental injustice that occurs within a racialized context both in practice and policy.
The concept describes the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color. Higher air pollution and rising temperatures have always plagued communities of color, but so have a host of other issues.
The environmental justice movement and the people who support it hope to be the catalyst for change.
Grassroots organizations that promote environmental justice look to educate communities on the dangers of environmental racism, but it won’t be enough without your help. Pay close attention to your local Government and policies. If a landfill or waste company wants to put a facility in your area, they have to go through the city first. Don’t be afraid to put pressure on your elected officials if you oppose practices or policies that could be harmful to your community.
Regan was sworn into his office in 2020 after President Joe Buden’s election. Biden reportedly selected Regan because of his passion for environmental justice.
Regan has experience bringing the political gap when it comes to confronting some of the biggest environmental issues facing the United States, including climate change and cleaning up coal ash, the latter being a big problem in North Carolina that also affects many other states.
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