June 9, 2007
Environmental Racism on Kauai's Westside
Like a prehistoric monster looking for it's prey, a chemical sprayer works it's way towards a building of classrooms on Waimea Canyon Middle School campus. With winds blowing towards campus it's sonance carried on the breeze strikes fear in children and adults knowing it's breath will soon cause discomfort, pain, illness, and possible future death. (see video)
Environmental racism can be defined as the intentional siting of hazardous waste sites, landfills, incinerators, and polluting industries in communities inhabited mainly by African-American, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asians, migrant farm workers, and the working poor. Minorities are particularly vulnerable because they are perceived as weak and passive citizens who will not fight back against the poisoning of their neighborhoods in fear that it may jeopardize jobs and economic survival (1). Environmental injustice and racism occur not only when policymakers violate minorities' rights to free informed consent or equal treatment in siting decisions but also when risk assessors use biased scientific methods whose policy consequences de facto result in unjustified discrimination against people of color and socioeconomically disadvantaged groups (2). 50 percent of Asian/Pacific Islanders and Native Americans are living in communities with one or more abandoned or uncontrolled toxic waste sites (1,2). A study by the Environmental Protection Agency concluded that socioeconomic conditions and race are the major factors determining environmental discrimination (3).
1. "Fighting Environmental Racism: A Selected Annotated Bibliography " by Irwin Weintraub,
2. "Environmental Racism and Biased Methods of Risk Assessment" by Daniel C. Wigley & Kristin S. Shrader-Frechette. http://www.piercelaw.edu/risk/vol7/winter/wigley.htm
3. United States Environmental Protection Agency. 1992. Environmental Equity: Reducing Risk For All Communities. Washington, DC: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Policy Planning and Evaluation.