'Environmental racism' alarms US activists

Roddy Scheer

Campaigners have failed to prevent even more Hispanics and African-Americans living within two miles of hazardous waste facilities across America.

According to a new report from the Environmental Justice Resource Centre at Clark Atlanta University, 'environmental racism' is getting worse, not better, in the U.S. despite two decades of work by activists and some policy improvements.

The report, which serves as an update to a landmark 1987 study uncovering the proximity of minority groups to hazardous waste sites across the country, found that an even larger number of Hispanics/Latinos and African-Americans live within two miles of one of more than 400 such toxic facilities in the U.S.

Analysts assumed the situation was improving. After all, hundreds of non-profit and community groups lobbied government bodies calling on them to remove such environmental racism in the intervening two decades, and a special environmental justice office was created at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The authors of the new study say that their disturbing findings underscore that fighting environmental racism remains an uphill battle. They suggest requiring state  "report cards" on environmental justice, increasing private foundations' funding the support of environmental justice groups and establishing community land trusts, which would allow communities to purchase abandoned plots of land at below-market rates and redevelop them.