Vogue CS in English
Tatiana Hlinka 1. 5. 2021
Humans fear the things they cannot see, hidden quietly amongst the midst of the shadows. Creeping, mumbling, lurking, until it suddenly croaks at the crack of dawn. It sucks the soul, attacks like a spark of lightning, destroying every seedling of life in its way. Sometimes, humans are ready. Sometimes, they are not.
Covid-19 destroyed over 3 million lives worldwide (1), becoming the "highlight of the year." Nevertheless, a new disease has arisen, killing more than 12.6 million people every year (2). It is a poison, more to say, intoxicating the Earth's pristine coasts, creating deforestation among the land of the green goddess, enforcing black smog in the air, all while ready to pounce at its next victim. Consider a child growing up close to a power plant that emits hazardous fumes into the air. It lives in a run-down house with walls coated with toxic lead paint, drinking from a faucet contaminated with lead, and playing in a run-down playground with traces of arsenic soil. What might seem like a horror story is true events that occur every day to millions of people, including millions of children.
At the end of the day, environmental impacts dictate someone's life. And the most vulnerable of all; the future. The environmental hazards present in impoverished-minority communities are the most life-threatening to children. As a percentage of their body weight, children take in more air, food, and water than adults, and their growing metabolism makes them less able to break down pollutants in their systems, moreover pollutants in the air (3). Adolescent exposure to air pollution, for example, raises the likelihood of asthma, which can make learning difficult. A report in the United Kingdom discovered that black British children are exposed to up to 30% more air pollution than white children (4). In addition, early lead exposure can affect cognitive development and exacerbate behavioral difficulties in children and neurological diseases in adults (5). As a result, young colored children are considerably more likely than their white counterparts to have elevated blood lead levels (6). Furthermore, in low-income and minority areas, neighborhood amenities that are helpful to children's cognitive development and mental health, such as better-quality parks with more space or safe walking streets, are more uncommon (7).
As a result of this suppression, children of color make up about 73% of poor children in America, accounting for one in every three Black and American Indian/Alaska Native children, and one in every four Hispanic children (8). A child’s development is deprived by the toxic stress of early poverty, which creates opportunity gaps that can last a lifetime and hurt the economy. Nevertheless, how is it that children live in poverty in the world's most outstanding economy? The answer lies at home-sweet-home. The geographical lottery has an extensive role in a child's chances of becoming impoverished. Children's fundamental needs must be addressed to eradicate child poverty, starting with a safe environment and a secure future.
As the consequences of climate change became increasingly evident in the United States, it also became apparent that they are disproportionately affecting minority populations, a manner of what author Rob Nixon refers to as "slow violence" (9). Minorities are three times more likely than affluent white communities to die (10) due to pollution impacts. One study (11) found that race was the most critical factor in determining where toxic waste facilities were sited in the United States, as 70% of the hazardous sites were within low-income communities of color. The subject of systemic inferiority extends to the air humans breathe.
For a long time, the legal and political debate about environmental injustice revolved around the issue of purpose. Was it the intention of a company constructing a waste facility or other pollution source, or a city or state approving it, to locate it in a poor minority neighborhood—an explicit racially motivated goal? Conversely, was it simply the result of market forces, which placed the hazardous waste where land was cost-efficient for a company? Intent is complicated. There were indications that towns with minimal political influence were tacitly selected as locations for heavy industrial or pollution sources in a few isolated situations. The California Waste Management Board (12), for example, was debating where toxic waste incinerators should be located in 1984. In the Central Valley of California, an incinerator was underway for a large Latino community. However, people pushed back and opposed the idea, proving that the community was not as docile as the study writers had predicted.
Predominantly, the stories, requests, and rallying cries of frontier communities can be echoed by well-established organizations and citizens. Educating about the hazardous dangers in a community will increase the number of community supporters and increase the pressure on decision-makers, who may, regrettably, be more inclined to listen to a more extensive environmental group with more social capital and political weight than a 'weak' community. For example, in the early 1980s, a low-income African-American community in Warren County, North Carolina, staged a six-week non-violent protest against the site of a hazardous waste dump that would discharge 6,000 truckloads of soil laden with toxic chemicals into a landfill (13). Although the community lost the struggle with the state, environmental justice advocates believe their campaign to be the first important turning point in the national environmental justice movement, gaining national notice. The voice of millions cannot be heard, unless someone starts the movement.
By Tatiana Hlinka (14 years old)
- “COVID-19 Map.” Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html. Accessed 6 June 2021.
- “An Estimated 12.6 Million Deaths Each Year Are Attributable to Unhealthy Environments.” World Health Organization, www.who.int/news/item/15-03-2016-an-estimated-12-6-million-deaths-each-year-are-attributable-to-unhealthy-environments. Accessed 8 June 2021.
- Laws, Edward. “Environmental Toxicology: Children at Risk.” PubMed Central (PMC), 4 Dec. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7121289.
- Beech, Peter. “What Is Environmental Racism and How Can We Fight It?” World Economic Forum, 31 July 2020, www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/07/what-is-environmental-racism-pollution-covid-systemic.
- Landrigan, Philip J., and Lynn R. Goldman. “Children’s Vulnerability To Toxic Chemicals: A Challenge And Opportunity To Strengthen Health And Environmental Policy.” Health Affairs, vol. 30, no. 5, 2011, pp. 842–50. Crossref, doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2011.0151.
- Packtor, By Chrissy. “Racial Gaps in Children’s Lead Levels.” Public Health Post, 13 July 2019, www.publichealthpost.org/databyte/racial-gaps-in-childrens-lead-levels.
- McCormick, Rachel. “Does Access to Green Space Impact the Mental Well-Being of Children: A Systematic Review.” Journal of Pediatric Nursing, vol. 37, 2017, pp. 3–7. Crossref, doi:10.1016/j.pedn.2017.08.027.
- Dawson, Ben. “The State of America’s Children 2020 - Child Poverty.” Children’s Defense Fund, 4 May 2021, www.childrensdefense.org/policy/resources/soac-2020-child-poverty.
- Nixon, Rob. “Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor — Rob Nixon | Harvard University Press.” Harvard University Press, 11 Mar. 2013, www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php.
- Borunda, Alejandra. “How ‘Nature Deprived’ Neighborhoods Impact the Health of People of Color.” National Geographic, 4 May 2021, www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/how-nature-deprived-neighborhoods-impact-health-people-of-color.
- Holford, Valerie, and Lane Pickett. “Most U.S. Hazardous Waste Sites in Close Proximity to Federally Funded Housing.” Earthjustice, 3 July 2020, earthjustice.org/news/press/2020/most-us-hazardous-waste-sites-in-close-proximity-to-federally-funded-housing.
- California Government. “History of California Solid Waste Law, 1980–1984.” CalRecycle, www.calrecycle.ca.gov/laws/legislation/calhist/1980to1984. Accessed 1 June 2021.
- McGurty, Eileen Maura. “From NIMBY to Civil Rights: The Origins of the Environmental Justice Movement.” Oxford University Press, vol. 2, no. 3, 1997, pp. 301–23. Crossref, doi:10.2307/3985352.