Environmental Justice

*the following is taken from WMEAC internal working document “Integrating Environmental Justice into WMEAC’s 2019-2021 Strategic Plan”

West Michigan Environmental Action Council recognizes four systemic injustices in the current American environmental movement which sustain racial inequity and exclusion.

1) Colonialism is deeply rooted in the history of the United States and has stripped people of their lands, histories, language, culture, and more. These extractions and management of people continue to impact native and indigenious peoples and black and brown communities to this day through a system that continues to perpetuate harm for what they have access to, their quality of life, and social mobility.

2) The environmental movement has been led historically and predominantly by white, male, middle-class activists. It has primarily addressed white, middle-class communities’ priorities and has maintained policies and procedures that perpetuate demographic homogeneity in the leadership, staff, and membership of environmental organizations.

3) Climate change disproportionately impacts communities of color and low income/working class communities. West Michigan is already experiencing negative impacts due to a changing climate. Prosperous communities have the economic resources and political capital to mitigate these impacts. Conversely, communities of color and low income families face threats–or exacerbation of their current burdens–in essentially all aspects of their lives: food insecurity, housing, economic uncertainty, physical displacement, and health.

4) Environmental racism and environmental injustice describe the disproportionate impacts of environmental hazards on low-income communities and communities of color. Given that these communities often lack the resources, tools, and political voice to resist the introduction of dangerous technologies, industrial polluters are more likely to be located near low-income communities and communities of color

Justice

We value universal access to environmental resources, and recognize the special attention and care needed to reach underprivileged, underrepresented, and marginalized groups as many are disproportionately affected by environmental problems and must overcome systemic barriers to receive resources that are necessary to have healthy lives and communities. Ongoing environmental issues like the Flint water crisis and vapor intrusion in Grand Rapids are examples of environmental injustices, where a marginalized group is disproportionately and negatively impacted by an environmental issue that directly relates to WMEAC’s work with water protection.