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February 19, 2008

Environmental justice and global warming

CNN International has an excellent article on environmental justice and global warming today. The article's point is summed up very well right at the top:

The general dialogue on adapting to a world affected by climate change by definition excludes the world's poorest people. And yet it's the world's poorest who are often put forward as the ones who are likely to feel the affects of climate change the most and are likely to be able to deal with them the least.

The article later on goes to put the term environmental justice in quotes, saying that it's something that's just now being thought about. The Sierra Club hired its first Environmental Justice Program organizer in 1992, and the program has been expanding as more communities invite us to help them unite for clean air and water and a safe place to.

Environmental justice is close to our hearts. The club's Greg Haegele had a good write-up on it in his Treehugger blog recently, and major news broke last week about the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) knowing about the formaldehyde in their travel trailers but still giving them to Hurricane Katrina survivors to live in - a problem the Sierra Club documented two years ago!

Back to the article - environmental justice must be considered when it comes to global warming solutions. Some leaders have spoken about any U.S. global warming legislation requiring that funds also be raised to protect and prepare low-income and indigenous communities around the world.

If you want to do something for environmental justice right now, check out this Sierra Club Take Action for an environmental justice bill currently in Congress. This sentence from the CNN article describes a reason for the Environmental Justice Renewal Act:

According to UNEP, in Los Angeles more than 71 percent of African Americans live in "highly polluted areas," compared to 24 percent of whites. Across the U.S. black children are three times more likely to have "hazardous levels of lead in their blood" as a result of living near hazardous waste sites.

This bill would require that the government take discrimination and environmental justice issues into account when making decisions on siting facilities.

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