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Environmental Justice: Ways to be stewards of the environment everyday

Environmental Justice: Ways to be stewards of the environment everyday

In a few decades, the relationship between the environment, resources and conflict may seem almost as obvious as the connection we see today between human rights, democracy and peace.

Wangari Maathai


Human-induced climate change is driving weather and climate extremes around the world, putting pressure on already strained food systems and causing mass migration. Human action, and therefore human inaction, has led us to a triple planetary crisis of climate change, pollution and loss of biodiversity. All this has had a significant impact on human rights, which include access to adequate food, water, education, housing, development and life. It increases social and gender inequality and leads to violence and exclusion.

These effects of the planetary crisis are disproportionate. Developing countries and least developed countries suffer the most, even though they contribute the least. In addition, the most vulnerable and marginalized groups suffer because they are unable to adapt to the consequences. In response to the accelerating effects of this crisis, a global movement has grown, mostly youth and science-backed, demanding urgent action to address the climate crisis. Increased awareness and mobilization of citizens are crucial to achieve the necessary radical changes, but governments, companies and institutions are not responding.

Researchers and advocates define environmental justice as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of race, colour, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Fair treatment in this case, means that no population bears a disproportionate share of the harmful environmental impacts of industrial, municipal, or commercial activities or the enforcement of state, or local laws. articles; and policies.

Meaningful participation requires effective access to decision-makers for all and the ability in all communities to make informed decisions and positive actions to create environmental justice.


Climate change, pollution, and many other environmental risks disproportionately affect communities of colour and poor communities. The environmental rights movement began to gain a foothold in America in the early 1980s. The state of North Carolina’s decision to organize a toxic waste dump for a predominantly African-American community in Warren County  sparked a wave of protests. The protests gained national attention and highlighted the disproportionate number of poor and minority communities exposed to toxic waste, pollution and environmental hazards. After the Warren County protest, people from poor minority communities across the United States spoke with one voice to demand social justice and environmental protection. Extensive research since then has further highlighted the environmental disparities between poor and minority communities not just in America, but around the world.

Working towards Environmental Justice

To achieve environmental justice, environmental laws and policies need to be developed, implemented and enforced to protect everyone regardless of race or income. The fight is to protect everyone’s right to breathe clean air and using the law to hold governments to account for failing to take action to mitigate and adapt to climate change. There is also the promotion of the right to information and access to justice so the human rights of those most affected by environmental destruction are protected.

However, environmental justice is not just about highlighting these discrepancies. True environmental justice refers to redistributing decision-making power back to vulnerable communities that are systemically impacted by environmental racism.  There are ways we can achieve environmental justice everyday

  1. Exercising self-education

The first step to empowering vulnerable communities and amplifying their voices is to educate ourselves about the connections between structural discrimination and disproportionate environmental damage in disadvantaged communities. In addition to learning about the disparities themselves, research local and national policies designed to maintain these disparities. It’s also important to understand that even in large environmental groups and nonprofits, management tends to be the political elite. Be careful not to blindly assume that these organizations, policymakers, and leaders are promoting environmental justice for all.

We must their policies and initiatives to get an idea of ​​whether or not the concerns, priorities and voices of vulnerable citizens are being represented. A quick search on the internet for “environmental social justice”  is an easy start to self-education about either current environmental injustices or decision-making.

  • Amplifying voices of negatively impacted Communities

Once you’ve educated yourself, get to know the social justice advocates in your community, and support them however you can. This support can take on several forms. If it is feasible for you, you can donate directly to organizations advocating for environmental justice or lend your help as a volunteer. Organizations such as A Rocha Ghana, GYEM, Friends of the Earth, EJF, etc. are crucial in this. Advocacy on social media will be very key in this regard with a hashtag. Sharing resources online and offline on various platforms will make strong cases for justice.

Student leaders and especially those advocates on campuses can form alliances to channel grievances and to amplify their voices for environmental justice within areas of mining, waste mismanagement, fishing, uncontrolled farming, land degradation, stone quarrying and many more within the nation. Durbar and rallies can be championed by the traditional authorities on effects of negative practices on the environment in their catchment areas. No matter what avenue you decide to pursue, the priority is making sure these environmental issues don’t get lost to the noise.  

  • Leaders and representatives should be held accountable

Beyond amplifying the voices of environmental justice activists, it is important to examine the role that individual citizens can play in dismantling structural discrimination, at the local level. Stay informed about the local environmental issues in your community. When issues come up concerning permitting and land use plans, policy design and enforcement, and grant awards advocate for these issues to be prioritized and the decisions concerning them to be made transparent.

In short, hold your community and your representatives accountable for their environmental votes. Let’s all do our part to change the narrative that environmental considerations in our communities is cumbersome; the lasting impact of early intentionality is well worth our time. 

See Also

  • Leverage the power boycott

Holding your community and officials accountable without knowing where your money is being spent is unreasonable. Check companies’ environmental policies before you you do business with them. While many companies have become increasingly open about their operations, the deliberate destruction of the environment for financial gain in vulnerable communities is sadly common.

Instead of relying solely on large organizations, consider investing your monies in the local economy, such as buying locally or buying directly from small or minority businesses. Chances are you’ll find some gems along the way whether it’s at your new favourite farmer’s market or local jeweler.


UNDP believes that these structural inequalities and poverty must be addressed through   environmental justice to prevent and eliminate environmental inequalities where the most vulnerable are the most affected.

In October 2021, the United Nations Human Rights Council took an important step by recognizing the human right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. This right is an important catalyst for change, being crucial for the right to life, food and decent work, among others.

Environmental Justice must be a daily affair in every small way.


  • UNDP Peru (June, 2022)
  • (April 2021)
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