Environmental Justice

"Let justice roll down like waters , and righteousness as an everflowing stream." Amos 5:24

This Bible verse was used by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the days immediately before his death as he was marching in the streets with the sanitation workers of Memphis, TN. He was making the connection between systemic injustices that resulted in physical harm and undue burden on the sanitation workers. As Dr. King said,

“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

It’s striking the similar cord struck by John Muir when he stated,

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

At its foundation, protecting our environment is a moral quest seeking justice not only for the natural world, but also ourselves and future generations due to our intricate ties to each other and the natural world. Often, it is the most vulnerable and politically disadvantaged communities that bear the brunt of negative environmental impacts from pollution. This environmental injustice and environmental racism is unfair and immoral. It typically manifests in three primary forms:

  1. Environmental burdens are greater in a specific geographical area that is comprised primarily of people of a specific race or income level. 
  2. Specific groups of people are intentionally left out of decision-making regarding environmental issues in their own communities.
  3. Lack of enforcement or proper oversight in specific areas renders meaningless the regulations meant to protect members of the community.

Beyond the environmental injustices we witness borne by the impoverished and communities of color, poor stewardship of the environment also represents an immense injustice to the most voiceless of populations: the unborn generations that will follow in our footsteps here on Earth. 

A task force of community and environmental advocates seeks to raise awareness among state policy-makers about cases of environmental injustice and environmental racism in Maryland in hopes of addressing these issues through legislative action. Read more about this task force here.  The task force developed two fact sheets to provide more information about environmental injustice