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An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.

"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

First People - The Legends. Cherokee Legend of Two Wolves. November 16, 2004. [accessed April 7, 2012].

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Environmental justice is a concept missing in Prince George's County

               Environmental justice is my watch word for the coming year. Environmental justice is a concept missing in Prince George's County. For reasons of expediency and pragmatic externalization of costs, Prince George's County has been led to believe that environmentalism is anti development which it is not. Because Prince George's County development is about short term gain rather than long term problem solving, its citizens are left in the dark when it comes to the negative ecosystem impacts of development decisions. And more to the point, human health hazards that arise when ecosystems are damaged or destroyed are down-played or obscured.  

               Environmental Justice, according to the EPA, 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.  It will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.[1]  When is the last time your neighborhood was asked for its environmental positions on a development project?

               The mindset which says that concerns about the environment are just tools of the anti-development community, cleverly ensures that minority and low-income communities have little to no access to public information relating to human health and environmental planning, regulations and enforcement. We are told that all of this is anti-development blather. The result is that the elderly and children, are forced to shoulder a disproportionate burden of the negative human health and environmental impacts of pollution or other environmental hazard.[2]

               The pushing of environmental damage onto economically challenged communities is not unique to Prince George's County.  When we have the choice to power our cars with batteries, we must power the battery from a renewable source such as wind, thereby  the killing bats, or reducing corn for food driving the price of food up impacting the least among us the most. But there is more.  For in demanding that the spent batteries be recycled we send them to Africa to be recycled; where there the children of Africa die. Our lack of environmental justice plays out in the form of lead poisoned  earth. The communities in Senegal were not asked to weigh in on the environmental damage development brings.[3] The affluent externalize their quality of life onto some less-able-to-defend themselves community.

               Too draconian an example you say? Consider then the floods of 2011 in Prince George's County. Environmental justice does not just cover chemicals. Storm water management issues that arise from development policies are should be part of every conversation; not just the cleanup costs.[4] The article does not speak to the cost to homeowners and businesses impacted by the environmental problems. So how about the poisoned ground water and surface water by ash disposal in Brandywine in Prince George's County?[5]

               Concerns about the environment are not always anti-development (though they can be painted as such or used as such), but rather they are pro quality of life. If we do not demand the best at the start of a project we most certainly will not get it at the end. Environmental justice ultimately  means sacrifice, and not by Prince George's County alone. We do not have to live in the shadows of  environmental justice and downhill from the shining city of dreams.

[1] EPA Home Compliance and Enforcement Environmental Justice. December 08, 2011. [accessed January 1, 2012]
[2] Environmental Justice - Definition [accessed January 1, 2012]
[3] John Peter Thompson. The Dream of Sustainability and its Deadly Unintended Consequence. January 5, 2009 [accessed January 1, 2012]
“THIAROYE SUR MER, Senegal — First, it took the animals. Goats fell silent and refused to stand up. Chickens died in handfuls, then en masse. Street dogs disappeared. Then it took the children. Toddlers stopped talking and their legs gave out. Women birthed stillborns. Infants withered and died. Some said the houses were cursed. Others said the families were cursed. The mysterious illness killed 18 children in this town on the fringes of Dakar, Senegal’s capital, before anyone in the outside world noticed.” By HEIDI VOGT, Associated Press, Jan 3rd, 2009
[4]  Ben Giles. Flood caused $14 million in damage to Prince George's government building. December 29, 2011. {accessed January 1, 2012]  
[5] Tim Wheeler. MD threatens lawsuits over coal ash pollution. JAnuary 4. 2011. [accessed January 1, 2012] 

1 comment:

Cindy said...

I would like to see "environmental justice" applied not only to humans but to other species..I believe "Environmental Justice" is ultimately "anti-development" . The very word 'development' implies improvement..improvement for whom? Certaunly not for the species displaced or doomed.

At this point in time, with habitat for other species rapidly disappearing..development should only take the form of "repurposing" which you have also duscussed in this blog..