Environmental Justice

No community should suffer more environmental burdens and subsequent health risks because of their race, class, or socioeconomic status.

As the world warms, and as communities across the globe organize to address widespread environmental damage, the issue of environmental justice has gained new urgency. A toxic mix of politics, economics and racism means that the damage done by pollution often weighs most heavily on the world’s most vulnerable communities. Environmental justice efforts target the root causes of the damage, identify its disparate impacts, and chart paths to restoration. Environmental justice is fueled by empowered communities that have the skills and knowledge to identify environmental risks, hold polluters accountable, and work with stakeholders to improve the health of residents and communities.

Environmental Justice in North Carolina

Cumulative Impacts

Frontline communities are constantly dealing with a range of environmental risks, including power plants, sewage plants, roads and highways, landfills, and others. Residents in these communities aren’t impacted by multiple pollution sources in isolation – rather, they compound on each other. Cumulative impacts are the lived-in reality that many disadvantaged communities experience due to the disproportionate exposure of environmental hazards from multiple pollution sources. To truly advance environmental justice, we must take a comprehensive, holistic approach to how these issues affect health and wellbeing.

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs, generate a tremendous amount of livestock feces and waste. In North Carolina, hog CAFOs are clustered in low-income, minority communities, with untreated hog waste seeping into the surrounding air and drinking water. They can also release harsh, burning odors that severely degrade everyday quality-of-life. Stricter limits on the number of animals in a certain area, rigorous air monitoring of CAFO emissions, and enforcing better practices for spreading animal waste can protect the everyday and long-term health of impacted communities.

BIOGAS

Despite the clean-sounding name, biogas is very dirty. Biogas is created by capturing the harmful emissions from CAFOs and converting them into fuel. These operations release multiple pollutants into the air that threaten the health of surrounding communities, including ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, particulate matter, and methane. Biogas producers can improve their transparency through rigorous monitoring and reporting programs, and can safeguard community health by setting stricter limits on harmful pollution emissions.

Energy Insecurity

Energy insecurity occurs when a household is unable to afford its basic energy needs. Communities of color are significantly more likely to experience this hardship than their white counterparts, and the climate crisis threatens to widen this disparity with hotter temperatures and more extreme weather events. By building a more just, equitable energy system we can address the health burdens of those historically harmed by energy injustice.

What Can You Do?

Target Pollution

Support the targeting of pollution sources to reduce the inordinate health burdens borne by low-income communities, indigenous peoples, and communities of color. Find pollution sources here >>

Become an Advocate

Advocate for the strengthening and enforcement of environmental and health policies that limit the factors contributing to the disproportionate impact of air pollution and climate change exposure in affected communities. Take Action Now >>

Get Involved

Actively seek the involvement of BIPOC and low-income communities in decisions and action that affect their communities and quality of life.

Daisha Williams

Manager, Environmental Justice

[email protected]
704.307.9528, ext. 113

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Resources

Find all our current resources on our Environmental Justice programs.