The Dernogalizer

May 10, 2009

EPA Chief: Environmental Justice

Filed under: Energy/Climate,environment — Matt Dernoga @ 10:49 pm
Tags: , ,

I came across an article about how EPA chief Lisa Jackson was talking about how neglect for the environment adversely impacts minority communities for a variety of reasons.  This really resonated with the two part series of columns regarding diversity and the environmental movement.  They are here, and here.  The link to the article on Lisa Jackson’s comments is right here.  I’m going to also paste the article below for your reading.

EPA chief calls for environmental justice

Saturday, May 09, 200

BY SPENCER GAFFNEY

PRINCETON BOROUGH — The federal Environmental Protection Agency needs to address the systemic environmental issues facing America’s poor, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a speech yesterday at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School.

“I see it as part of my essential mission to show all Americans that the Environmental Protection Agency works for them,” said Jackson, the first African-American head of the EPA.

Jackson said that long-term environmental issues can devastate a community if left unchecked, leading to a cycle of pollution and poverty in the country’s poorest neighborhoods.

“If there is unchecked pollution, if there is littering, then that will lead to additional pollution, additional littering,” said Jackson. “Businesses won’t invest in that community, not even if you pay them to do so.”

Jackson also said that President Obama would reject the “false choice” between the economy and the environment, and said that the president would see the environmental sector as an economic opportunity.

“The opportunities are there to create green jobs,” said Jackson, “in places in our county where both the green and the job are absolutely vital.”

Jackson cited an initiative in the president’s Recovery Act to weatherize low-income housing as an example of the compound benefits of the green sector.

“The idea was more than just to make that housing green, which is very important, but to put 80,000 Americans to work at the same time that it saves their families hundreds of dollars a year in energy bills,” Jackson said.

Improving environmental conditions in underprivileged areas can have widespread positive effects on areas beyond the immediate community, said Jackson. As an example she described the affects of polluted air in urban settings on health-care costs.

“Think about the people who get sick at two or three times the average rate from air pollution because the air pollution in their neighborhoods on hot summer days is so severe,” said Jackson. “They’re often the same people that predominately, because of their income, get their health care from emergency room. So it drives the cost of heath care up systemwide.”

The new generation of environmentalists, said Jackson, will include people who often times don’t consider themselves environmentalists, drawing from their own personal experience. Jackson was in the upper ninth ward of New Orleans visiting her mother when Hurricane Katrina struck and said the experience changed her mother’s views on environmentalism.

“My mother never understood why I decided to become an environmentalist; she sent me to school to be a doctor,” said Jackson. “Today she can make as compelling an argument about stream buffers as I can. Today, my mother is an environmentalist, whether she knows it or not.”

Princeton President Shirley Tilghman introduced Jackson and commended the Princeton graduate for her work for environmental justice.

“Lisa Jackson was and is committed to reaching out to what she describes as communities of color, communities that might be poor, that otherwise are disadvantaged or that otherwise haven’t had a seat at the environmental table.”

Tilghman said she wasn’t surprised to see the large number of students in the audience.

“If there is a single issue that galvanizes students of this generation, it is issues surrounding the environment,” said Tilghman.

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