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Environmental Justice

Environmental justice is a social movement addressing the unfair exposure of poor and marginalized communities to difficulties associated with resource extraction, hazardous waste, and other land uses. The impacts of climate change are largely determined by the population's vulnerability and resilience. Thus, they are more likely to be felt disproportionately by those who suffer from socioeconomic inequalities. In the United States, people of color are found to be more vulnerable to heatwaves, extreme weather events, environmental degradation, and subsequent labor market dislocations.


Looking into the past, it is clear the establishment of slavery is a precursor to more recent discriminatory policies.  This includes social, political, and economic inequalities. Lower income levels, limited access to education, and lesser health status are found to be more prevalent in African American communities than in non-Hispanic white communities. The historical discriminatory practices in housing, education, employment, and healthcare play a role in the manifestation of these inequalities. This has thus contributed to greater vulnerability to climate impacts and health problems, from heart attacks and birth defects to asthma.


Ultimately, these factors are oftentimes beyond the control of the individual in the U.S. The economic power, social policies, and political influences differ by place, race, and income. This is a result of historical disinvestment, discriminatory practices and policies over time, structural racism, higher pollution burdens, and inadequate access to healthcare resources. As communities of color continue to face challenges brought on by climate change, effective policies and programs are imperative to improvement.


People of color are on the front lines of the climate crisis. But for decades, power imbalances have constrained minority responses to the impact of climate change and contribution to solutions. Building political and economic power, as well as speaking up about challenges, are critical components of climate resilience. It’s time to expand the conversation around climate justice to ensure that all people, regardless of race and ethnicity, are guaranteed protection from the worst effects of climate change. Ladder Strategy & Solutions fights for equality and policy changes for sustainable living. 

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