In April, EFNIKS will be talking about EARTH.
Outside of certain pockets of society, it is pretty well accepted that pollution happens, that it is a problem for all of us at some level. We see our trash separated into refuse, recyclables, compost; many of us take our cars to get smog checked; there are battles over toxic waste sites and designated “superfund sites”. And we are mostly familiar with Climate Change, or the threats of its impact.
These conversations are broad. They are on a level that says “we are all impacted by this thing”. Environmentalism is effectively viewed as a “racially blind” issue.
But this view is lacking, it isn’t sufficiently deep to see that the effects of planning, policy, and pollution are not equal--they do no equally impact all of us. The threats may, when you add them up, be global, They may be so substantial that they become issues that are visible to entire metropolitan areas, entire regions and countries, to the entire world. But visibility is not the only key, and the impact differs in large part between people of color on one hand, and non-PoC communities on the other.
We see this disparity in the quality and amplitude of impact in the way mid-20th century planning destroyed communities of color in the name of progress and economic development. This is what you have during urban renewal projects, redevelopment, zoning changes, highway construction, and so on. Communities of color not only face greater exposure to pollution and hardship--resulting in emotional stress, lower health, education, and economic outcomes--but also in trauma to our social networks that provide stability, comfort, culture, and mobility. We work the jobs and live in the neighborhoods that shorten our lifespans by design.
We know this happens in the Global South, the product of colonization, extraction of resources, forced migrations, damage to local customs and food supply, and devaluing connections to culture and land in favor of destructive economic development. It is the way the US and Western nations extract human capital and natural resources, and then export pollution, toxic waste, climate change, rising oceans, and policies that restrict the ability of the Global South to implement solutions to lagging health, education, economic, and political outcomes that are in their own interests.
And with the additional layer of US militarism, and the decades on record of exposing people of color at home and abroad to pollutants, toxins, and dangers of foreign policy, we can understand that the interests of those in power, those who plan, those who set policy, are not always aligned with people of color either in the US or around the world.
But if nothing else, people of color are refusing to take it in stride. Despite interests that shift focus away from environmentalism, we are pushing the recognition of environmental racism and the solutions put forth within the discourse of environmental justice. We are insisting on a discussion that includes us, our communities, our lives, and not just conservation and hiking trails, not just the future flooding of financial districts. We will make race part of this issue, no matter the discomfort to anyone.
This is EARTH. And EFNIKS will be taking a look at these issues, all month long, for all of us.