The Harsh Realities of Environmental Racism

FFF Digital Team
Fridays for Future Digital
3 min readJan 6, 2021


Environmental racism is a real issue when it comes to the issue of climate change and inclusive climate action. With intersectionality, climate action can be powerful in pointing out the heavy injustices linked in several sectors, such as social justice, racial justice, and environmental racism.

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Environmental racism is a disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color.

The term “environmental racism” was coined by African American civil rights leader Benjamin Chavis in1982 in relation to the “racial discrimination in environmental policymaking, the enforcement of regulations and laws, the deliberate targeting of communities of color for toxic waste facilities, the official sanctioning of the life-threatening presence of poisons and pollutants in our communities and the history of excluding people of color from the leadership of the ecology movements’’.

4 years later, Chavis conducted and published a national study: Toxic Waste and Race in the United States that was very revealing of the correlation between race and the location of toxic waste throughout the United State.

Although the term derived from the USA, environmental racism is not only happening in the United States but rather throughout the world, where mass waste dumping in MAPA (Most Affected People and Areas) regions by the Global North continue. Although the Global North or the West produces more waste than MAPA, this waste that is dumped in the developing countries tend to impact the health of people living in particular areas of these developing countries negatively.

Environmental racism can occur anywhere, from workplaces with unsound health regulations to the siting of coal-fired power stations close to predominantly non-white communities. It can mean citizens drinking contaminated groundwater or being schooled in decaying buildings with asbestos problems.

Globalization has increased the opportunity for environmental racism on an international scale.

Through globalization, the dumping of pollutants such as e-waste in MAPA areas is much more prevalent than in the Global North because MAPA areas have looser safety laws and environmental practices. More than 44 million tonnes of e-waste was generated globally in 2017–6kg for every person on the planet — and of that, each year around 80% is exported to Asia. A typical example of an e-waste hub is the town of Guiyu in China, where heaps of discarded computer parts piled by the river contaminate the water supply with cadmium, copper, and lead. Water samples show lead levels 190 times higher than WHO limits. Even a slight increase in lead levels can affect IQ and academic performance in children.

Environmental justice is the climate movement’s response to environmental racism.

Environmental racism is a real issue that we continue to hear news about each and every day in the media so it is about the climate change movement starts to embrace this issue as part of the climate, environmental and social justice fight.

To achieve environmental justice, we need to advocate for universal legislations, culture, interactions, and society where communities could live with sustainable environments that are safe and productive for all people.

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Written by Derrick Nyamedi
Edited by FFF Digital Members



FFF Digital Team
Fridays for Future Digital

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