Continuing threats to Indigenous people’s sovereignty and survival
Meeting the challenge of equal research alliances
By Swati Prakash
Over the past decade a growing number of organizations engaged in environmental justice struggles have recognized the need to bolster their capacity to investigate links between environmental exposures and health problems. In the face of the enormous scientific resources of polluters (and in some cases government agencies), it is increasingly difficult to make the claim that disproportionate environmental exposures in communities of color are linked to racial disparities in health. Corporations and government agencies, with the backing of well-paid scientists, often claim there is no proof. Consequently, many community-based organizations have been backed into a corner of having to defend our position that environmental racism does indeed exist. As a result, a growing number of these organizations are seeking to access the resources of academic institutions to strengthen our struggles for justice.
Environmental justice is a global movement challenging the disproportionate burden of pollution and environmental degradation borne by communities of color and low-income people, and the egregious racial disparities health linked to these exposures. This issue of Race, Poverty and the Environment explores a theme of science, health and environmental justice that has increasingly sharpened the focus of WE ACT for Environmental Justice’s work.
Why communities must initiate environmental research
By Ayanna King
African Americans living in the eastern corridor of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania have long been concerned about environmental health and justice issues such as transportation, pollution and health problems like asthma. In 2002 and 2003, the Pittsburgh Transportation Equity Project (PTEP), a community-based Initiative that seeks to empower African Americans, decided to conduct an air monitoring study near a local public school, Reizenstein Middle School, located a block away from the Port Authority bus garage. To determine local air quality, particularly the concentration of particulate matter, in the community, we sought the help of three groups: East End Neighborhood Forum, Group Against Smog and Air Pollution (GASP), and Chatham College toxicology students. GASP, a nonprofit citizen's group, trained the Chatham students to monitor the air in different sites on different days. The students also collected research on asthma and diesel particulate emissions.