A Look Inside the Correlation Between Social Status and Environmental Stress
Environmental ethics, economics, and justice are ideas that have different meanings for different people. Each idea develops out of person’s specific worldview. These ideas are very different topics, but all intertwined. Environmental ethics deals with how humans interact with their environment and other living things and how one applies ethical principles to these interactions. Economics studies the interactions between consumers and producers of goods within a market. The state of the world economy has a great affect on how the environment is treated. Justice is the foundation of ethics. Justice defines how a society functions. Without justice, there would not be any environmental ethics or any ethics in general.
In general, low-income areas in the United States are located near dumps or other areas of significant environmental pollution. This pollution is not limited to waste, but can also include noise, air and nuclear contamination. Houses and schools built near these areas are less expense to build, because the land is contaminated and people who can afford to live in better areas do not want to purchase the land. Similarly, government and low income housing is usually located in areas where no one else wants to live. For example, in my town there is a factory that manufactures dye. The factory emits a significant amount of air pollution, water pollution and noise pollution. Therefore the area surrounding the factory is not considered prime real estate. Within the proximity of the factory, the housing is dilapidated and inhabited by people who cannot afford to live in better place. This entire situation seems very unfair.
Advocates of environmental justice are obviously concerned with situations that parallel the one in my town. Shelter is a basic human need and having safe housing should be accessible to everyone. Economics ties into this problem because contractors can build less expensive housing on cheaper land. As a result, people of lower socioeconomic status can only afford housing in areas using affected by some type of pollution. In order to ensure that poorer people have access to the same safe housing areas as wealthier people, we must work together to prevent further pollution and clean up current pollution. This could be as simple as updating outdated equipment at in factories.
This problem has multiple solutions; solutions that vary based on one’s worldview. For example, if you asked preservationist what the best solution to the issue, they would advocate protecting the environment from further damage, by updating the factory and cleaning up current pollution. In a similar manner, a conservationist would look to continue consumption, simply on a smaller scale. For example, a conservationist would look for a way to make the factory more efficient in order to create less pollution. According to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, the definition of environmental justice is “The fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies .” Therefore if an environmental justice advocate looked at this situation would seek retribution for past violations of environmental justice in the area, such as financial compensation. Furthermore, the advocate would also seek stricter laws and codes to be implemented in order to protect the people inhabiting the area and the environment it from continuing damage. Neoclassical economist would have a much different opinion on the entire situation. Economists have a history of looking out for what is best for making money, which does not usually include what is best for the environment. The neoclassical economist in this situation would only be concerned with maximizing the factory’s production rate, in order to meet demand. Much to the contrary, an ecological economist would look for ways to maximize a company’s production, in an environmentally friendly way. In this specific situation, the ecological economist would advocate finding technologically advanced machinery that would eliminate further pollution while helping improve a company’s production.
Each perspective described above approaches the situation from a different angle. In an ideal world, each expert would collaborate to form a plan that is both sustainable and environmentally friendly. My personal opinion regarding the issue is that it is absolutely necessary to make changes to the current situation, by promoting cleaner production and cleaning up current pollution. I would also advocate promoting more efficient forms of production, in order to help promote a better economy and possibly improve the standard of living for those around the factory. The government, in general, should not build low-income housing in areas of high pollution to save money. My ethical standard are based on basic human rights and sustainability. If a solution is not sustainable, in the long run, it is not going to be effective.
In conclusion, environmental justice is not simply justice for the environment, but for all those who use the environment. People living in poverty all over the world are forced to deal with pollution caused by people of upper classes. This is completely unfair. The main solution to this problem is to stop the issue at the source; by stopping pollution. This includes finding ways to recycle waste, so it does not end up polluting water and land sources for people in developing countries. In my town, the most logical solution is to take measures to prevent further environmental damage and clean up current pollution, in order to make the area more habitable for the people living there. The earth is home to everyone and it is up to the human race to share the burden of waste and pollution, not only those who have no choice.
With these three words and practicality, we can change the current state of the world. It will take the upper class’s influence to spark a change and make living condition for the poor better. This would start the change from the source and promise a better future for the next generation.
- “Environmental Justice Advocates” retrieved on October 23, 2011 from http://law.lclark.edu/student_groups/environmental_justice_advocates/what_is_ej/
- Picture “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” retrieved on October 24, 2011 from http://zedomax.com/blog/2010/03/22/top-10-fun-ways-on-howto-recycle-boxes/