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Western University
Health Sciences
Health Sciences 1002A/B
Jessica Polzer

HS 1002 – Social Determinants of Health Class 19 – Thursday November 8, 2012 Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice: Hurricane Katrina Instructor: Professor Jessica Polzer School of Health Studies Recap - Environmental Racism (ER) Definition: • the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards and “natural disasters” on: – people of colour – disadvantaged or marginalized communities • unequal protection from environmental hazards • disadvantaged communities shoulder a disproportionate burden of effects of industrialization v2 Canadian Examples of ER in Canada • Grassy Narrows First Nation – North western Ontario – Located 180 km downstream from plant that pumped > 10 tons of industrial waste into the Wabigoon River in the late 1960s and 70s. – Grassy Narrows residents were exposed to mercury through the consumption of fish (a staple of their diet) – could no longer rely on fishing as a means of tradition and business – Contamination poses risks to physical health and to health of local economies and business v3 • “Because a substantial proportion of the Aboriginal diet in rural and remote areas consists of traditional foods, contamination from local and global sources of industrial development can reduce the purity of traditional foods and medicines, all of which impact upon the physical and spiritual health of Indigenous peoples” (Richmond and Ross, 2009, p. 404) v4 US Examples of ER • Love Canal – “ a public health time bomb” – 21,000 tons of toxic waste buried beneath the neighbourhood “love canal” – Efforts of local journalist and activists led to then President Jimmy Carter designated LC as a “federal health emergency” and demanded that federal emergency funds be used to remedy the situation • Dumping in Dixie – Industrialization of the Southern US led to rapid 5 Environmental Justice (EJ) Background • Originated as social movement in the US; the EJ movement took root in the 1980s • This "new" movement redefined environmentalism to address issues of equity, disparate impact, and unequal protection from environmental harms and hazards • “The environmental justice movement has basically redefined what environmentalism is all about. It basically says that the environment is everything: where we live, work, play, go to school, as well as the physical and natural world. And so we can't separate the physical environment from the cultural environment. We have to talk about making sure that justice is integrated throughout all of the stuff that we do.“ (Robert Bullard, pioneer of EJ movement) 6 Environmental Justice - Definition • response to environmental racism; inclusive and anti-racist movement • goes beyond pollution reduction; focus on justice and environmental equity • calls on the gov’t and the law to protect inhabitants from environmental harms and exposure to toxins without discrimination • involves building meaningful community participation with government and industry decision making
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