During the Amazonas Synod, the idea of defining the Environment sin or Ecological sin made its way. From Christian and from many religious perspectives, Environment Injustice is its correlative notion.
However, in his encyclical Laudato Sì (LS), Pope Francis says, “When we speak of the ‘environment’, what we really mean is a relationship existing between nature and the society, which lives in it. Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live. We are part of nature, included in it and thus in constant interaction with it.” (LS n°139). Somewhere further he notes, “If everything is related, then the health of a society’s institutions has consequences for the environment and the quality of human life. Every violation of solidarity and civic friendship harms the environment.” (LS n°142)
Now, “It’s a fact that can be easy to lose sight of, but that’s obvious when one takes even a moment to think about it: the environment isn’t only rainforest or marshlands or the savannah, it’s everywhere, including cities like Newark that are comprised of bricks, glass and steel. It’s urgent that we think about where we live as every bit the habitat that it is,” writes in his article Andaiye Taylor. The remark bounces back, “The health of our environment affects the health of people who live here – children in particular – and communities like Newark tend to take the brunt of environmental injustices as the sites of incinerators, exhaust, mowed over green spaces and poisoned water."
Dawone Robinson, the Eastern Regional co-director of Natural Resources Defense Council, in his October 2019 video, Racial Injustice: Why We Need to Act Now, says, "When you have communities intentionally divided by race. When black and brown families live in poor and substandard homes. When the school systems in black and brown communities are underfunded and run down. When the land in these communities is undervalued. It is inevitable that companies and government move to locate dirty power facilities, toxic waste sites, and dangerous infrastructure projects to these areas."
He states the word “Intentionally” because his grandparents living in a black area of the Waterleaf (Iowa) town were denied to move to another area where most of the population was white just because they were black.
"According to analysis conducted by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and HUD (Housing and Urban Development), 70% of the country's contaminated waste sites, or Superfund sites, are located near low-income housing. This is environmental racism. These are deliberate acts. Either intentionally targeting or equally problematic disproportionately impacting communities based on race," he goes on.
Twenty-two NJIT (New Jersey Institute of Technology) journalism students explored Newark as a habitat in 2016. Andaiye Taylor reporting what they discovered quotes an example, “The River it abuts is currently a cesspool of pollution due to years of chemical dumping directly into the water, causing critical health problems for the residents who have lived in its wake. The EPA announced their cleanup plans for this stretch of the Passaic River in the spring. Those plans will require some of the very companies who dumped chemicals into the river to kick in funds for the cleanup. But not everyone is happy with the specific cleanup techniques that will be used.” (NJIT Students Explore Newark as a Habitat, BrickCityLive)
Fortunately, the population of Ironbound Community Corporation (ICC), a neighborhood of Newark, decided to combat this environmental injustice. They advocated and promoted proper land use and Climate Justice to reduce air emissions and clean up contamination and promote green, non-fossil fuel energy and sustainability. After years of struggle, the ICC has had a number of successes.
In Newark, one of the five largest incinerators of the New Jersey state is located. Property owner Covanta faced a trial in 2010 for violating air quality standards, and as a result had to help foot the bill for Riverfront Park and install air filters to further reduce emissions in 2012. Advocates, say Covanta would not have agreed to install the filters had it not been for on-going public pressure sparked by the 2009 lawsuit.
Riverfront Park is the only public green space in Newark along a waterfront. It displays sparkling amenities, including a baseball field, two playgrounds, tennis and basketball courts, an open grassy area and a turf soccer field with a huge county logo in the center (See Riverfront Park). Now visitors can take an ICC conducted Environmental Justice Tour of the Ironbound, highlighting key issues and sites in the community.
“Authentic development includes efforts to bring about an integral improvement in the quality of human life, and this entails considering the setting in which people live their lives.” (LS n°147).