In a city, there are all the people of different gender, wealths and incomes living in it but they separated into different parts of the city by what language they speak and how much money they have. The parts that are wealthier tend to have green spaces, grocery stores with nutritious organic food and of course the money to buy it and are often far away from pollution emitting freeways. The parts that are poorer and more diverse tend to have industrial sites, heavy-duty diesel polluted ports and hazardous waste – all things that city relies on to run properly, but that heavily pollute the air and water. This is the story of real cities all across the Malaysia, where people might live in the very same area code, but their gender, race, ethnicity or wealth and income bracket causes them to experience wildly different quality of air, water and life. This kind of inequity expands far beyond cities, too.
Rural areas are full of commercially valuable resources like oil and coal, and they’re also home to indigenous and low income communities. When those resources are extracted, these communities don’t see any of the money and they end up with all the air and water contamination that’s left over from the extraction. We even see this injustice on a global level like in a small island nations that are forced to directly confront the consequences of rising sea levels but haven’t played any significant role in the industries that are causing climate change.
So, when we talk about environmental justice, we’re talking about how we can try to breakdown and reimagine a system that’s built up on these inequities – a system where those who are already disadvantaged because of their gender, race and economic status are made poorer because they’re unable to profit from the resources that the world depends on and are made sick or worse by the environmental contamination that comes with extracting those resources.
In conclusion, social inequities are intimately tied to the environment. That why social justice is an environmental issue, too. Hence, everyone of us should cultivate a sense of community responsibility towards the environment.