[X] CLOSEMAIN MENU

  • Archives

  • Categories

    • air pollution (8)
    • Announcements (598)
    • Antibiotic Resistance (39)
    • Antimicrobial (17)
    • Aquaculture (30)
    • Aquatic Organisms (33)
    • Bats (7)
    • Beneficials (51)
    • Biofuels (6)
    • Biological Control (34)
    • Biomonitoring (37)
    • Birds (25)
    • btomsfiolone (1)
    • Bug Bombs (2)
    • Canada (10)
    • Cannabis (29)
    • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (9)
    • Chemical Mixtures (3)
    • Children (108)
    • Children/Schools (240)
    • cicadas (1)
    • Climate (30)
    • Climate Change (84)
    • Clover (1)
    • compost (5)
    • Congress (16)
    • contamination (150)
    • deethylatrazine (1)
    • Disinfectants & Sanitizers (18)
    • Drift (12)
    • Drinking Water (14)
    • Ecosystem Services (12)
    • Emergency Exemption (3)
    • Environmental Justice (162)
    • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (500)
    • Events (88)
    • Farm Bill (18)
    • Farmworkers (189)
    • Forestry (5)
    • Fracking (4)
    • Fungal Resistance (6)
    • Fungicides (24)
    • Goats (2)
    • Golf (15)
    • Greenhouse (1)
    • Groundwater (13)
    • Health care (32)
    • Herbicides (33)
    • Holidays (37)
    • Household Use (9)
    • Indigenous People (6)
    • Indoor Air Quality (5)
    • Infectious Disease (4)
    • Integrated and Organic Pest Management (70)
    • Invasive Species (35)
    • Label Claims (49)
    • Lawns/Landscapes (245)
    • Litigation (340)
    • Livestock (9)
    • men’s health (1)
    • metabolic syndrome (2)
    • Metabolites (4)
    • Microbiata (20)
    • Microbiome (26)
    • molluscicide (1)
    • Nanosilver (2)
    • Nanotechnology (54)
    • National Politics (388)
    • Native Americans (3)
    • Occupational Health (15)
    • Oceans (9)
    • Office of Inspector General (2)
    • perennial crops (1)
    • Pesticide Drift (160)
    • Pesticide Efficacy (8)
    • Pesticide Mixtures (6)
    • Pesticide Regulation (770)
    • Pesticide Residues (180)
    • Pets (36)
    • Plant Incorporated Protectants (1)
    • Plastic (6)
    • Poisoning (18)
    • Preemption (41)
    • President-elect Transition (2)
    • Repellent (4)
    • Resistance (117)
    • Rights-of-Way (1)
    • Rodenticide (33)
    • Seasonal (3)
    • Seeds (6)
    • soil health (14)
    • Superfund (3)
    • synergistic effects (18)
    • Synthetic Pyrethroids (16)
    • Synthetic Turf (3)
    • Take Action (583)
    • Textile/Apparel/Fashion Industry (1)
    • Toxic Waste (11)
    • Volatile Organic Compounds (1)
    • Wildlife/Endangered Sp. (454)
    • Women’s Health (25)
    • Wood Preservatives (34)
    • World Health Organization (10)
    • Year in Review (2)
  • Most Viewed Posts

Daily News Blog

16
Jun

This Juneteenth, We Highlight the Ongoing Fight for Environmental Justice

(Beyond Pesticides, June 16, 2023) Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom for the last 250,000 enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, but it is also a reminder that justice has not historically been “swift” or complete for Black Americans. The holiday commemorates the abolition of slavery in Texas on June 19, 1865, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation. 

According to a 2022 Gallup Poll, 40 percent of Americans know “a little bit” or “nothing at all” about Juneteenth. While this is a significant improvement in comparison to the 60 percent for the aforementioned metric in the previous year (when the holiday was federally recognized), greater public awareness is needed. This holiday is a time for individuals and organizations to acknowledge and reflect on their past and current actions or inactions that perpetuate systemic racism.

As known from the history books, the Emancipation Proclamation was signed on January 1, 1863, and the civil war ended on April 9, 1865. Juneteenth is a lesser-known anniversary commemorating the emancipation of enslaved people who received news of their freedom two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln’s freedom proclamation. While the technologies in the 19th century had a much slower travel time, there were concerted efforts to withhold and delay the communication that “all slaves are free.” The Congressional Research Service acknowledged the efforts to delay and keep enslaved plantation laborers for “one last cotton harvest.”  

There are parallels between the delay of freedom in 1865 and the delay in recognition of the holiday today. While news spreads quicker now, this nation continues to confront the same forces against justice. Juneteenth, for many Americans, is a holiday of gratitude and grief. Beyond Pesticides commemorates the anniversary of the second emancipation by highlighting the current need for environmental justice.

Environmental Justice

The father of environmental justice, Robert Bullard, Ph.D., defines environmental racism as any policy or practice that unequally affects or disadvantages individuals, groups, or communities based on their race. Dr. Bullard states that, until the 1980s, environmental conservation and pollution were separate. Many environmental organizations prioritized the preservation of “wilderness” rather than urban areas, predominantly comprised of people of color (POC), who continuously experience the disproportionate impacts of pollution and the effects of environmental racism.   

During the Jim Crow Era—following slavery—segregation propagated disparities between black and white communities, causing justice-related priorities to vary between demographic divides. Both the civil rights and environmental justice movements spread nationwide during the 60s and 70s. However, the two movements rarely coincided, and the implications are felt today. This division amplified the perception among civil rights advocates that environmentalism catered to white organizations and populations while ignoring POC and their struggles.

However, this does not mean environmentalism was completely void of addressing racial inequalities. Many early environmental justice leaders came out of the civil rights movement, bringing the same tactics they had used in civil rights struggles—marches, petitions, rallies, coalition building, community empowerment through education, litigation, and nonviolent direct action.

The 1960s saw some of the first localized protests of environmental inequalities such as:

  • Latinx farm workers, led by Cesar Chavez, fought for workplace rights and against harmful pesticides in the farm fields of California’s San Joaquin Valley.
  • African American students took to the streets of Houston, TX, to oppose a city garbage dump in their community that had claimed the life of a child.
  • Residents of West Harlem, New York City, fought unsuccessfully against a sewage treatment plant in their community.

Despite the localized attempts to mitigate environmental racism, it was not until 1982 that the gap between the environmental and civil rights movement started to narrow: 

This is the story of Warren County, NC, an impoverished, rural county that became the epicenter of the growing environmental justice movement—drawing nationwide attention to racial disparities.

In 1978, employees of Ward PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) Transformer Company deliberately dripped 31,000 gallons of PCB-contaminated oil along approximately 240 miles of soil lining highway shoulders in North Carolina throughout 14 counties. By 1982, North Carolina had announced a plan to move soil contaminated with PCBs from alongside 210 miles of the state’s roadsides to a newly developed landfill located in Warren County—one of the only counties in the state with a majority African American population. PCBs are toxic chemicals that have links to birth defects, liver diseases, skin disorders, and cancers. The decision triggered a wave of protests, one of which resulted in the arrest of a U.S. congressman and dozens of activists who tried to block the PCB-laden trucks at the landfill’s entrance. Unfortunately, the pressure against PCB soil dumping did not deter the decision and 60,000 tons of contaminated soil was dumped in the landfill and buried 7 feet, only 3 feet above many groundwater tables.

Because of the outrage over Warren County, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) evaluated the correlation between landfill locations with the racial demographics of surrounding communities. The report concluded that three of every four landfills in the Southeast U.S. were in or near communities with majority non-white populations–with more than a quarter living below the poverty line. Although officials eventually removed the PCB-laden soil from Warren County, 25 years later, race remains the predominant indicator of proximity to pollution in the United States (more than socioeconomic factors). Today, numerous reports and public awareness of environmental racism continue to build on the movement that originated in Warren County, North Carolina.

Beyond Pesticides is working in coalitions to disrupt the disproportionate burden of pesticide use in communities of color. The Black Institute, a member of Eco-Friendly Parks for All, published a groundbreaking report on disparate pesticide application in public parks near Black and Brown communities. This injustice in parks, as well as disproportionate occupational risk to farmers and landscapers, is particularly concerning when it leads to pesticide-induced diseases (e.g., respiratory illness, neurological disorders, endocrine disruption, cancers, etc.).  

Examples of disproportionate risks include:

  • African American women are 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than women of any other racial group. Even more concerning, incidences of triple-negative breast cancer—an aggressive breast cancer subtype lacking remediation—is approximately three-fold higher in non-Hispanic Black women compared to non-Hispanic White women. Although past studies suggest genetics produce these demographic differences in breast cancer outcomes, scientists now believe genetic factors only play a minor role compared to external factors (i.e., chemical exposure).
  • The death of a young boy with leukemia highlighted yet another instance of environmental injustice. The incidents of acute lymphoblastic leukemia in the boy’s community were nearly five times higher than the national average. Thousands of Black residents are suing Union Pacific Railroad Company for contaminating their properties with highly hazardous creosote wood preservatives, with known carcinogenic properties.
  • More than five decades prior to chlorpyrifos revocation (removal of chemical for all uses), the toxic organophosphate insecticide disproportionately harmed low-income African American and Latinx farmworkers (and their families) who harvested much of the domestic—and contaminated—crops of grapes, citrus, and sugar beets, among others. Risks of exposure to chlorpyrifos impact neurological, reproductive, and endocrine systems.
  • The Black Institute aggregated information from numerous public records and reported on the disproportionate risk to communities of color regarding the distribution and concentration of toxic pesticides. The Poison Parks Report found dangerous concentrations of pesticides in Idlewild Park. Surrounding communities, 90 percent of which were African American, had concentrations of glyphosate at 50 percent in 2018 (compared to “normal concentrations” at 0.5 – 3%). No concentration of glyphosate has been demonstrated to be safe for human health and the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer identifies glyphosate as a probable carcinogen.

Although there are regulatory systems in place to evaluate and monitor pesticide use and exposure limits (i.e., the Federal, Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act [FIFRA] and The Food Quality Protection Act [FQPA]), pesticide-related illnesses continue to disproportionately harm communities of color. Regulations ignore people with increased vulnerabilities due to preexisting health conditions—most often associated with racial and socioeconomic factors. For example, federal pesticide law does not consider the cumulative effect of high-exposure and high-risk occupations. 

Science, technology, and a shift to organic can aid in the reduction of surface-level food system issues; leaders must incorporate social justice across the agricultural industry for permanent systemic transformation. Partnering with activists in communities of color to address agrochemicals’ impacts can be a start to alleviating inequalities. However, changes in policy are required in the food system so that the burdens placed on POC communities are no longer overlooked. Beyond Pesticides will continue to monitor progress on inequities related to pesticides, agriculture, farmworker well-being, and public health. For current reporting on matters related to environmental justice, see Beyond Pesticides’ Daily News Blog.

A section of Beyond Pesticides’ latest issue of Pesticides and You, “Retrospective 2021: A Call to Urgent Action,” is devoted to the inequities of pesticide use. Section IV, “Disproportionate Pesticide Harm Is Racial Injustice: Documenting Victimization: Structural Racism,” reprises Beyond Pesticides’ 2021 coverage of environmental injustices. The publication also calls for urgent action re: federal and state “evaluations that go into toxic chemical regulation . . . to reform and replace the current regulatory decision-making process, which is empirically racist, with one that acknowledges and cares for those with the highest real-world vulnerabilities and exposure[s].”

One important way to reduce human and environmental contamination from pesticides is to buy, grow, and support organic. Beyond Pesticides advocates a precautionary approach to integrated pest management, land management, and agriculture by transitioning to organic. Furthermore, given the wide availability of non-pesticidal alternative strategies, families, chemical occupational workers, and the agricultural sector can apply these methods to promote a safe and healthy environment. For more information on the benefits of organic for both consumers and farmworkers, see Beyond Pesticides’ webpage, Health Benefits of Organic Agriculture.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Share

One Response to “This Juneteenth, We Highlight the Ongoing Fight for Environmental Justice”

  1. 1
    Robert S. Mellis Says:

    It’s Gallup, not Gallop.

Leave a Reply

  • Archives

  • Categories

    • air pollution (8)
    • Announcements (598)
    • Antibiotic Resistance (39)
    • Antimicrobial (17)
    • Aquaculture (30)
    • Aquatic Organisms (33)
    • Bats (7)
    • Beneficials (51)
    • Biofuels (6)
    • Biological Control (34)
    • Biomonitoring (37)
    • Birds (25)
    • btomsfiolone (1)
    • Bug Bombs (2)
    • Canada (10)
    • Cannabis (29)
    • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (9)
    • Chemical Mixtures (3)
    • Children (108)
    • Children/Schools (240)
    • cicadas (1)
    • Climate (30)
    • Climate Change (84)
    • Clover (1)
    • compost (5)
    • Congress (16)
    • contamination (150)
    • deethylatrazine (1)
    • Disinfectants & Sanitizers (18)
    • Drift (12)
    • Drinking Water (14)
    • Ecosystem Services (12)
    • Emergency Exemption (3)
    • Environmental Justice (162)
    • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (500)
    • Events (88)
    • Farm Bill (18)
    • Farmworkers (189)
    • Forestry (5)
    • Fracking (4)
    • Fungal Resistance (6)
    • Fungicides (24)
    • Goats (2)
    • Golf (15)
    • Greenhouse (1)
    • Groundwater (13)
    • Health care (32)
    • Herbicides (33)
    • Holidays (37)
    • Household Use (9)
    • Indigenous People (6)
    • Indoor Air Quality (5)
    • Infectious Disease (4)
    • Integrated and Organic Pest Management (70)
    • Invasive Species (35)
    • Label Claims (49)
    • Lawns/Landscapes (245)
    • Litigation (340)
    • Livestock (9)
    • men’s health (1)
    • metabolic syndrome (2)
    • Metabolites (4)
    • Microbiata (20)
    • Microbiome (26)
    • molluscicide (1)
    • Nanosilver (2)
    • Nanotechnology (54)
    • National Politics (388)
    • Native Americans (3)
    • Occupational Health (15)
    • Oceans (9)
    • Office of Inspector General (2)
    • perennial crops (1)
    • Pesticide Drift (160)
    • Pesticide Efficacy (8)
    • Pesticide Mixtures (6)
    • Pesticide Regulation (770)
    • Pesticide Residues (180)
    • Pets (36)
    • Plant Incorporated Protectants (1)
    • Plastic (6)
    • Poisoning (18)
    • Preemption (41)
    • President-elect Transition (2)
    • Repellent (4)
    • Resistance (117)
    • Rights-of-Way (1)
    • Rodenticide (33)
    • Seasonal (3)
    • Seeds (6)
    • soil health (14)
    • Superfund (3)
    • synergistic effects (18)
    • Synthetic Pyrethroids (16)
    • Synthetic Turf (3)
    • Take Action (583)
    • Textile/Apparel/Fashion Industry (1)
    • Toxic Waste (11)
    • Volatile Organic Compounds (1)
    • Wildlife/Endangered Sp. (454)
    • Women’s Health (25)
    • Wood Preservatives (34)
    • World Health Organization (10)
    • Year in Review (2)
  • Most Viewed Posts