Environmental Justice: Why It's a Black Thing
EPA chief Lisa P. Jackson says it's not about loving nature -- it's a civil rights issue.
On Sunday, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson will deliver a sermon at Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, Ala., to commemorate the 47th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. What do clean air and water have to do with issues that surrounded one of the most pivotal events of the civil rights movement? A lot, according to Jackson. The Root talked to her about the effects of environmental injustice on minority communities, the EPA's plan to make sure people of color aren't forgotten and why you don't have to love the great outdoors to care passionately about the ravages and real-life consequences of unchecked pollution.
The Root: Your sermon will be delivered on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, one of the most pivotal events of the civil rights movement. Explain how environmental justice is a civil rights issue.
Lisa P. Jackson: We talk all the time about the right to prosperity. The Declaration of Independence talks about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We talk about prosperity and freedom to prosper. It's hard to envision true freedom in that regard if everyone doesn't have equal access to the basics of living -- and the basics of living include the right to breathe clean air, the right to drink water that's free from toxins and the right to build your home and community in a place that's free from environmentally ravaged land and the pollution and health impacts that come along with it.
It's not just about freedom from pollution -- pollution equals poor health. Poor air quality contributes to three of four of the leading causes of death among Americans. So when we talk about environmental justice, we're talking about Americans' basic rights to have equal access to being healthy.
TR: What are some of the real-life consequences for the people who are affected by this issue?