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How Do Toxins, Pollution, and Climate Change Impact Poor and Black and Latin Communities?
There seems to be controversy about environmental justice linked to the demographics of individuals living in proximity to areas used in undesirable ways, for example, land waste sites and landfills. However, the extent to which these sites accommodate trash varies and is not directly correlated to risk exposure. Whereas some researchers use the magnitude of pollution release as opposed to closeness to a hazardous site to define exposure, others utilize the dispersion of pollutants model to comprehend the link between exposure and population. As a result, the current paper focuses on disproportionate exposure to contamination based on race while focusing on the Blacks and Hispanics as influenced by disproportionate siting, coming to the nuisance, market coordination, and discriminatory politics.
Implications of Modelling Choices on Spatial Relationships between Polluters and Residents
Modelling choices on the spatial relationships between polluters and residents have resulted in discrepancy when examining this issue of environmental justice in regards to disproportionate exposure to toxic waste. Hence, there has been a measurement error of environmental justice due to exaggerations of study variables. One such hyperbolic correlation involves the use of aggregate data using smaller units of analysis. While there are arguments that a larger unit of analysis might override the seemingly racial inequities of exposure, contact would be more accurate if indicators of risk and entities of analysis were used based on the maximum distance where exposure is felt. On a different note, environmental justice is eminent in terms of health outcomes as ethnic minority groups are shown to have poor health outcomes compared to their majority counterparts (Banzhaf et al., 2019). It is for this reason that the correlation between pollution exposure and race becomes a pertinent issue because these ethnic minority groups are near hazardous land sites; thus have more adverse health conditions.
Theory and Evidence for Four Possible Mechanisms Govern Patterns of Disproportionate Exposure to Pollutants
The association between pollution and race has not yielded significant results because employment, and non-residential patterns, seem to influence settlement in cheap areas due to the governing force of economic welfare. When socioeconomic factors are controlled, race prevails as a variable correlated with pollution exposure. Taste-based discrimination by firms suggests that as businesses seek to control labor, land, and transport costs, they are likely to target the poor neighborhoods and cheap labor. Moreover, their disproportionate siting in areas predominantly occupied by the people of color is perceived to be intentional on their ends as a way of protecting the whites from pollution. As a result, they establish their firms in spaces inhabited by ethnic minority groups from where they can gain more profits due to passive lawsuits and more returns.
Even though every household strives to live in a desirable neighborhood, its ability to settle in such a setting depends on the budget. However, since people of color lack the resources to afford living in high-income neighborhoods, they choose to settle in cheap quarters which are homeland to polluting firms and sites. As a result, the disproportionate siting of firms in zones settled by people of color results in increased exposure based on race. Nonetheless, the similar determinant factors manifest market-like coordination between discriminatory siting and coming to the nuisance.
The link between disproportionate siting and coming to the nuisance is fueled by discriminatory politics which allows companies to use more of the land occupied by the people of color as opposed to that occupied by the whites. Lammy (2020) talks of environmental injustice through biased legislation which does not include the input of the people of color in efforts to address effluence. Martin (2017) also highlights the segregation of ethnic minority groups in opportunities seeking a greener economy. The same principle is advocated by Jones (2010) who claims that biomimicry can be used to create a green economy that has zero pollution as it seeks to respect the wisdom of all species. Whereas the activities of these businesses eroding the environment are important, it is essential to ensure that they develop effective mechanisms through which they can manage their hazardous wastes without affecting the lives of others.
Whereas the government is involved in making decisions regarding the occupancy of polluting firms, the residents should be involved in such decisions as well. Using the various modelling choices of assessing the impact of environmental contamination, the interests of the Blacks and Hispanics must be given equal importance as those of the Whites. However, more research is required to settle on the most effective and informative model. The same regulatory measures imposed on these businesses in areas occupied by the whites should be applied when it involves Blacks and Hispanics as well. Every life matters and the policies to govern environmental justice should ensure safety and quality air for all.
The life of a person of color is as important as that of a white person, and they need access to quality air, water, and soil equally. It is, thereby, essential that Black people are actively involved in opportunities seeking to address climate change where pollution is a pertinent determinant factor. In the quest to create a greener economy, companies should work towards having zero pollution to save the lives of the entire population and prevent deteriorating climate change.
Banzhaf, S., Ma, L., & Timmins, C. (2019). Environmental justice: The economics of race, place, and pollution. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 33(1), 185-208.
Jones, V. (2010, December 16). Environmental justice [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WMgNlU_vxQ&t=372s
Lammy, D. (2020, October). Climate justice can’t happen without racial justice [Video]. TED. https://www.ted.com/talks/david_lammy_climate_justice_can_t_happen_without_racial_justice?language=en#t-3569
Martin, A. (2019, December 20). Racism and climate change are about you [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtCU8iA3Zoo
In this paper, we review the environmental justice literature, especially where it intersects with work by economists. First we consider the literature documenting evidence of disproportionate exposure. We particularly consider the implications of modeling choices about spatial relationships between polluters and residents, and about conditioning variables. Next, we evaluate the theory and evidence for four possible mechanisms that may lie behind the patterns seen: disproportionate siting on the firm side, “coming to the nuisance” on the household side, market-like coordination of the two, and discriminatory politics and/or enforcement. We argue that further research is needed to understand how much weight to give each mechanism. Finally, we discuss some policy options.