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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Environmental Justice in Boston

I am a student in the Environmental Studies Program (ESP) and I would like to bring to the attention of the Umass Boston student community, the issue of Environmental Justice. Keep reading, because this is an issue that is having devastating effects on our community as well as the many around us.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines Environmental Justice as, “the fair treatment for people of all races, cultures, and incomes, regarding the development of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” Several studies have shown that low-income communities and communities of color have more than their fair share of pollution. These communities are more likely than others to have more air pollution, water pollution, and also more waste dumpsites and other hazardous facilities located in their neighborhoods. A study titled ‘Unequal Exposure Report’ released in January 2001, by Northeastern University’s professor Daniel Faber documented some findings across Massachusetts. Some of the results from his study show that• While lower-income communities (average median household income of less than $40,000) comprise 50.8% of all communities in Massachusetts, they received 78.7% of all chemical emissions from large-scale industries reporting under the Toxics Use Reduction Act (TURA) between 1990-1998.• 14 of the 15 most intensively overburdened towns are of lower-income status (less than $40,000).• Although higher-minority communities (where 15% or more of the population are people of color) comprise just 5.4% of all communities in the state, they are home to 18.2% of all active power plants and 23.4% of all proposed power plants in the state.• 9 of the 15 most intensively overburdened towns are of higher minority status (15% or more people of color.)

Now you might ask why you as a Umass Boston student should be concerned with this issue. First of all, one of the 15 most intensively overburdened towns is Dorchester. Oh, wait a minute; Umass Boston is located in Dorchester! And if that doesn’t concern you, then if you live in any of the following towns you might want to reconsider your position: Worcester, Boston (Downtown included), Springfield, Cambridge, Waltham, Lowell, Brockton, Lynn or Somerville.

Hopefully I have your attention now, and if you are interested I will tell you how you can help. There is an Environmental Justice Bill that has been introduced by two different senators and one House Representative. This is a very important issue and if the bill is passed, some of the benefits include:• The prevention of hazardous facilities from locating in/near our communities.• The requirement of tougher environmental regulation on new and proposed development.• The requirement of better rehabilitation of urban brownfields, which are abandoned hazardous waste sites.

Affected communities, environmental justice organizations and college students across Massachusetts are coming together to lobby for the bill to be passed. On April 8th, groups such as EnviroCitizen, Clean Water Action, and BASEC along with college students in Boston are meeting with legislatures at the State House in support of this bill and other issues. The other issues include the Computer Take Back Bill, which would ensure that computer manufacturers take old/used computers back for proper recycling and environmentally friendly disposal; and the Climate Change Action Plan, which is a call to urge Governor Romney to enforce an agreement to reduce air pollution through emissions. I plan to be at the Lobby Day, and I hope you can join your fellow students as we LOBBY FOR OUR ENVIRONMENT. If you wish to get involved or have questions please contact me at [email protected] or call EnviroCitizen at 617-542-2782. Anita Wikina (Biology and Environmental Studies, 2003).