photo by Joe Brusky/Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association
photo by Joe Brusky/Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association

Our goal in this challenge is to advance environmental justice, which we define as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to having access to a healthy environment.

In this case, we are talking about WATER JUSTICE.

Environmental Injustice & Racism

Clean air, clean water, and healthy soil are all important environmental functions that support healthy human communities. But not everyone breathes clean air, has access to safe and clean water, or can grow food in healthy soils. Often, the groups of people who do NOT have access to these important natural resources are communities that have less money, less power, and have historically been discriminated against.

Environmental racism goes beyond lack of access. It refers to discrimination against groups of people in environmental decision-making. For example, if you look critically at decisions about where polluting factories are built, where waste is dumped, and where water and sanitation systems are failing, they are often near communities that also have less money and less power -- often communities of color. This intentional act of locating polluting facilities near marginalized communities is considered "environmental racism".

Water Injustice in the News

In this Challenge, we are focusing specifically on water, where we have seen examples of environmental injustice and racism in the news both in the US and internationally. These incidents go beyond water pollution and shortages -- there are many examples of where water pollution and water shortages have disproportionately impacted some communities over others. Below are just four examples of water injustice in the US that have been in the news over the last few years. 

Aging Drinking Water System

Lead Contamination - Flint, Michigan (USA)

Shale Fracking for Natural Gas

Contamination of Air & Water - Global

Oil & Gas Pipeline Construction

Potential Contamination of Water - Global

Failing Sewer Systems

Sewage Contamination - Jackson, Mississippi

How do we work for water justice?