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fighting for humanity

(p.1) ONE Introduction
Achieving environmental justice
Karen Bell
Policy Press

As a result of human activities, we have now either crossed, or are imminently in danger of crossing, nine earth system ‘planetary boundaries’ within which humanity can safely live. In order to avoid reaching these tipping-points, we need to restore planetary balance as soon as possible, and certainly within the next 20 years. These spiralling environmental problems have been paralleled by a corresponding and, many would argue, related, surge in the morbidity and mortality rates of non-communicable diseases, including cancer and chronic respiratory diseases. Numerous studies have linked these disease epidemics to toxic substances in the water we drink, the food we eat, the products we use and the air we breathe. Therefore, when we work to achieve environmental justice, we are, indeed, ‘fighting for humanity’. However, environmental justice particularly focuses on exposing the injustice that occurs when the distribution of environmental goods and bads is uneven for different socioeconomic groups. There is also often a ‘double injustice’, whereby the social groups that are most likely to be negatively affected by environmental problems are those least responsible for causing them. In addition, there is frequently a ‘triple injustice’ that arises when environmental policies, themselves, further exacerbate negative social consequences.

Keywords:   environmental health, distributional injustice, toxic environments

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