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Writing Sample Environmental Justice

Everyone shares the environment and has a responsibility to take care of it, yet some are
affected by environmental damage more than others. The Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) describes environmental justice as “fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all
people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development,
implementation, and enforcement of laws, regulations, and policies.”¹ This is made possible
through the equal protection from environmental and health hazards and an equal access to a
healthy environment.²
However, there is a stark imbalance in many communities globally, where some have
higher exposure to dangerous environmental factors. Robert Bullard, a leading environmental
activist, claims that “zip code is still the most potent predictor of an individual’s health and wellbeing.”³
One of the most well-known instances of environmental injustice is the severe water
contamination in Flint, Michigan, a city that is over 50% Black. Since 2014, Flint has dealt with
alarmingly high rates of lead poisoning due to old water pipes in the community, with at least 12
people dying and many more living with the negative health effects of lead exposure.⁴ The
disproportionate effect of water contamination on communities of color and low socioeconomic
status is present not just in Flint, but also in Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore. Recently, a
settlement has been reached in Flint, granting a total of $626 million to those affected by the
water contamination, including children, adults, business owners, and all who pay water bills.⁵
In another case, environmental scientists found that if pollution levels in highly polluted
neighborhoods of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh were improved to match those of less polluted
neighborhoods in the county, an estimated 100 lives would be saved per year from coronary heart
disease. Unfortunately, the majority of people in Pittsburgh who are harmed and die from
pollution levels are impoverished people and minorities, due to the traffic patterns and geography
of pollution sources. In addition to water contamination and air pollution, there are a wide breadth
of ways the environment can pose danger to people and entire communities, such as chemical
waste, climate change, and deforestation.
Climate change is an ongoing issue that will continue to endanger the world and
disproportionately put marginalized communities at risk. Environmental issues are difficult to
tackle, given that everyone around the world is responsible for protecting the environment and its
climate. However, there are steps that can be taken to improve the issues. On an individual level,
humans can live more sustainably through environmentally friendly practices, such as reusing
items, properly recycling, conserving natural resources, and limiting energy consumption.⁶
On a macro level, there needs to be better accountability for larger entities that are the
primary sources of environmental damage. The amount of environmental harm that large
corporations cause is so severe that 100 companies alone are responsible for 71 percent of global
emissions.⁷ This is shocking and daunting, since the main contributors to climate issues are those
in power and of high social status, yet there is hope for bettering this imbalance. Everyone has the
right to vote and advocate for change they would like to see. By voting for and empowering
public officials that pursue environmentally-friendly solutions and hold harmful corporations
accountable, there can be a push towards a greener society that is equitable for all.
1. Environmental Justice,” EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), accessed November
12, 2021, https://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice.
2. “Environmental Justice.”
3. Gwen Ranniger, “Environmental Injustice,” Environmental Health News, June 1,
2020, https://www.ehn.org/environmental-justice-2646185608/the-father-ofenvironmental-justice.
4. “Flint Water Crisis: $626m Settlement Reached for Lead Poisoning Victims,” BBC
News (BBC, November 11, 2021), https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada59243426.
5. “Flint Water Crisis”
6. “Brainstorming Ways to Solve Environmental Problems? 5 Simple Ways You Can
Help,” Unity College, April 1, 2019, https://unity.edu/sustainability/ways-to-solveenvironmental-problems/.
7. Joshua Axelrod, “Corporate Honesty and Climate Change: Time to Own Up and Act,”
NRDC, February 26, 2019, https://www.nrdc.org/experts/josh-axelrod/corporatehonesty-and-climate-change-time-own-and-act.