A number of lectures have focused on the role of socioeconomic status on population health. Although our course has not focused on the “chemical environment” (e.g., air and water pollution), the concentration of health challenges in neighborhoods has been a recurring theme. PHS 795 Student Laurel Myers calls our attention to an interesting resource to help explore the relationship of health determinants to geographic location. She writes:
As we reflect on the effects of neighborhoods on health and happiness, I would like to highlight an important component of those outcomes: environmental justice. I am sure that many of us are already familiar with this concept, even if we don’t have a name for it.
The term “environmental justice” arose in the 1980’s and can be defined as “the unequal distribution of social and environmental costs between different human groups, classes, ethnicities but also in relation to gender and age.” Examples include increased pollution or decreased access to safe exercise spaces. Impoverished communities do not often have time or resources to fight the battles necessary to combat new factories that spew chemicals or to advocate for more sidewalks or green space.
The EJ Atlas not only details the issue, but provides and interactive map where you can see violations of environmental justice worldwide: https://ejatlas.org/about
For those interested in exploring this issue more, Majora Carter explains environmental justice well in her talk “Greening the Ghetto” (https://www.ted.com/talks/majora_carter_s_tale_of_urban_renewal). I challenge you to consider what environmental injustices might exist here in Madison, or in your home communities.