In the last few weeks, the world has seen mass protests from small-town USA to major cities in Germany in response to the killing of George Floyd in late May and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
In the last few years, the world has also seen a more concerted global effort in combating climate change, with young people of color leading the charge.
This is not a coincidence. Environmental justice, as it is widely known as throughout the United States, is a movement that explores the intersection between environmental and race issues while advocating for systematic change.
It differentiates itself from environmentalism, a movement that has gained a lot of traction globally but has largely been led by white men.
“I guess in the future in an ideal world, there wouldn’t be a difference (between environmental justice and environmentalism),” said CCIJ member and environmental reporter Kari Lydersen.
“But right now there’s a huge, starking difference.”
Lydersen, who has been reporting on and teaching about environmental justice for over a decade, said it’s important to understand the “invisible” and long-term effects environmental racism has on communities.
“Especially given what’s going on right now,” she said, “I think it’s important for people to remember the tangible effects– and even a lot of people refer to it as violence– that environmental racism wreaks on communities and individuals.”
Lydersen said it may be easy to defer tackling environmental racism when other issues like the pandemic or police brutality seem more pressing, but it’s important to understand how those concerns intersect with environmental ones.
The environmental justice movement was founded in the late 1980s, largely in response to a 1987 report that found that “three out of every five Black and Hispanic Americans lived in communities with uncontrolled toxic waste sites.”
Not much has changed since that report’s publication. Reports spanning from the 1990s to 2014 show communities of color in the United States are more prone to environmental hazards from air pollution to fracking sites. The need for environmental justice is still relevant across the U.S. and around the world.
In Nigeria, CCIJ member and investigative journalist Adie Vanessa Offiong writes about the ways Nigerian women and children are disproportionately affected by the burden of water gathering.
In an interview with CCIJ, Offiong explained how women often bear the brunt of water inequality in Nigeria.
“Women are the ones who are culturally designated to provide water for households,” she said, adding that this culture exposes them to dangers such as unpaid labor, contracting infectious diseases and body aches, and being at high risk for assault and abuse.
Oxpeckers, the first environmental journalism center in Africa, “exposes eco-offenses and track(s) organised criminal syndicates in southern Africa.”
Since its founding, Oxpeckers has produced many ground-breaking investigations on issues such as #WildEye, which tracks wildlife crime across Europe, and their newest project, #MineAlert, which tracks and shares water use licences approved for mining.
It’s important for journalists, like Offiong and those at Oxpeckers, to continue reporting on and investigative environmental injustices, Lydersen said.
“Helping other people know the specific issues is hopefully one step in changing these injustices,” she said.