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Environmental Justice Problems in the Global South


The existing environmental problems are spread unequally among the countries, and this circumstance allows speaking of regional problems of the so-called Global South. The prevalence of issues related to injustice in this area is explained by the exploitation of its resources by the North, whereas the methods for addressing them are scarce (“Lesson 3,” n.d.). Meanwhile, the challenge is multi-faceted since various aspects, such as air pollution, climate change, human rights, and E-waste, are involved. Therefore, this paper aims to examine the mentioned points to draw the connection between them and explicitly demonstrate the cause-and-effect relationships of these phenomena. Since the Global South faces significant obstacles to creating safe environmental conditions due to the North’s policies, this analysis will be helpful for combining the available data on this subject.

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Environmental Injustices and the Involvement of the Global North

The effects of the strategic course of wealthier countries referred to as the Global North on the poor world region, the Global South, can be revealed by considering its outcomes for the latter’s citizens. The former area’s involvement in the process of promoting environmental injustices is, hence, correlates with the human factor. For example, the practice of outsourcing companies’ activities which is popular in the North, leads to the uneven distribution of operations (Kernan, 2015). In this case, the South suffers from dirtier procedures, adversely affecting the ecological situation and, consequently, people’s health. More importantly, the labor conditions for these individuals and, more critically, children are inappropriate from the perspective of their wellbeing, both economically, in terms of incomes and disproportionate taxation, and environmentally (“Lesson 3,” n.d.). As a result, citizens in the South do not have access to opportunities for prosperity comparable to those of their counterparts from wealthier countries.

The discussed problem serving as the evidence of the significant role of the North in the South’s environmental challenges directly influencing its inhabitants is complemented by several other issues with similar outcomes. First, the mentioned practices of present-day companies are the cause of epidemics stemming from the rising pollution levels (“Lesson 3,” n.d.). Second, the overall worsening of the ecology of the Global South, which can be seen from frequent floods and other similar events, forces the affected persons to become refugees, thereby lowering their social status (“Lesson 3,” n.d.). Third, the violation of human rights, which is inevitable under the specified circumstances, is not compensated for by effective legal provisions allowing to claim the ownership of resources by indigenous peoples (Kernan, 2015). These factors explain the impossibility for the population of the Global South to become equal to that of the North in terms of opportunities for economic development, access to resources, and, subsequently, wellbeing in general.

Air Pollution and Climate Change

In addition to the challenges described above, the two main aspects, air pollution and climate change, should be examined from the perspective of their contribution to environmental injustice deriving from the relationships of the regions. For example, the former issue is confirmed by the increasing number of deaths due to this reason in the affected areas accounting for over six million people (“Lesson 3,” n.d.). The cities which are more susceptible to this threat become especially unsafe for their inhabitants, who face the choice of either being located closer to the sites ensuring economic benefits or health. Since these two provisions are not guaranteed to them, these individuals are more likely to acquire problems while pursuing their careers, thereby attempting to survive in the already disadvantaged position. From this point of view, air pollution is definitely a case of environmental injustice as it is directly linked to the deterioration in other areas of human life.

As for climate change, its hazards are even more significant compared to this issue since the consequences of its neglect are numerous. For instance, the populations living in the Global South are more likely to struggle with floods or desertification connected to this process, and the occurrence of armed conflicts and hunger is more frequent for them (“Lesson 3,” n.d.). The growing death rates are implicit results of the improper farming techniques used by the Global North on these territories (“Lesson 3,” n.d.). Since these practices lead to long-term harm and force people to leave their homes while trying to survive during typhoons or hurricanes, and they are directly connected to the involvement of wealthy countries, this area should be viewed as environmental injustice. In this situation, the measurement bias emerging from the lack of an explicit link between the described events does not contribute to the successful resolution of the problems without elaborating innovative measures.

The Case Against Shell: Landmark Human Rights Trial

The actions of Shell, a company involved in the exploitation of land belonging to the Ogoni people in Nigeria, were numerous and caused significant harm to the environment, complementing the already discussed problems. They were directed against this population group illegally and in cooperation with the government (Center for Constitutional Rights, 2009). The primary evidence in this respect is the work with the Nigerian military, who were paid for assistance in suppressing the movements of citizens caused by environmental injustice (Center for Constitutional Rights, 2009). The people dying from the pollution due to the operations of Shell expressed their concerns peacefully, but the measures implemented against them were violent (Center for Constitutional Rights, 2009). In this way, the continuation of the activity of this business was accompanied by numerous violations of human rights, unlawful land expropriation and exploitation, and attacks on villagers.

There are many examples serving as evidence that Shell was indeed working together with the government. First, the situation when a new oil pipeline was laid through the farmlands in the presence of the military is one of the events clearly confirming the above standpoint (Center for Constitutional Rights, 2009). Second, the lack of legal support of convicted citizens and leaders of societal movements was another violation allowing to claim the adoption of inappropriate measures for dealing with the population (Center for Constitutional Rights, 2009). Third, the attacks on people who were forced to leave their homes were performed by officials who shot and killed them (Center for Constitutional Rights, 2009). These occasions prove that the military dictatorship openly supported the decisions of Shell and helped them increase profits at the cost of human lives.

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E-Waste and Solutions

The presented case of the company violating human rights and promoting environmental injustice is radical, whereas other problems, such as E-waste, have the same impact while being less visible to the population. For example, the absence of recycling projects for computers or other electronic equipment is a well-studied phenomenon by scholars who state that “the rapid increase of this complex, global waste stream” becomes critical (Perkins et al., 2014:287). The ecological nature of this challenge is also explained by the fact that when it comes to E-waste, “75% to 80% is shipped to countries in Asia and Africa for “recycling” and disposal” (Perkins et al., 2014:287). The specified regions are attributed to the Global South, and they do not have any means for processing these materials (“Lesson 3,” n.d.). It means that this practice harms the populations of the affected countries while implying the exploitation of their scarce resources for the suggested procedures.

The presented problem can be solved if a combination of practical measures is developed with respect for the risks stemming from the threat. First, raising awareness of the organizations involved in this field is critical, and this task can be performed by developing the initiatives containing general requirements for the businesses (Perkins et al., 2014:293). Second, monitoring the activity related to recycling E-waste should be introduced on an international level (Perkins et al., 2014:293). For instance, the approaches, such as the programs elaborated by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition or the Basel Action Network, can be applied to the Global South and, in particular, the countries with the worst indicators in air quality (Perkins et al., 2014:293). Third, the “3 Rs”: “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle” can be laid in the basis of guidelines for municipal authorities responsible for the environmental conditions (Perkins et al., 2014:293). Thus, the situation can be improved when the initiators of these movements timely follow the pre-designed steps.

Fast Fashion and Environmental Injustices

Environmental injustices, even though they are explicitly connected to the issues discussed in the previous sections, are also indirectly related to buying patterns when it comes to fast fashion. The link between ecological hazards and this phenomenon can be provided by the examination of its outcomes for the population of the Global South. The lack of awareness of the population benefitting from the so-called Western privilege ensured by economic dominance regarding the actual results of their choices appears to be crucial for misunderstanding the problem (“Lesson 3,” n.d.). Meanwhile, the absence of quantitative data does not allow conducting a thorough analysis to change people’s mindsets concerning purchasing new clothes (“Lesson 3,” n.d.). In turn, there are no laws addressing the threat deriving from the growing influence of corporations over that of the government (The story of stuff project, 2009). Hence, the link between fast fashion and environmental injustice is the fact that buyers are unconscious of the harm their actions cause to the populations living in the areas with landfills.

The only solutions to this challenge are to organize evidence-based resistance movements to inform the citizens regarding their contributions to the problem and promote a minimalist culture opposite to the current consumerism. The former suggestion seems feasible from the perspective of people’s awareness which might evoke the motivation of shifting their behaviors. In addition, the latter might be useful in elaborating a long-term strategic course for ensuring individuals’ abilities to approach the decision-making process in terms of clothes carefully.


In conclusion, the phenomena comprising environmental injustice towards the Global South stem from the improper policies of present-day corporations on the North. They include air pollution and climate change, adversely affecting the populations and serving as the causes of increased death rates. Meanwhile, the explicit hazards are complemented by hidden threats, such as dubious mechanisms of recycling E-waste and fast fashion trends. They contribute to the burden of developing countries which have to allocate the already scarce resources for addressing the issues created by companies. Thus, creating legal regulations alongside people’s awareness concerning their contributions can help minimize the risks and eliminate the gap between the wellbeing of citizens in the Global South and the Global North.


Center for Constitutional Rights. (2009). The case against Shell: Landmark human rights trial (Wiwa vs. Shell) [Video]. YouTube. Web.

Kernan, M. (2015). The economics of exploitation: Indigenous people and the impact of resource extraction. CounterPunch. Web.

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Lesson 3. (n.d.) [PDF Document].

Perkins, D. N., Drisse, M. N. B., Nxele, T., & Sly, P. D. (2014). E-waste: A global hazard. Annals of Global Health, 80(4), 286-295. Web.

The story of stuff project. (2009). The story of stuff [Video]. YouTube. Web.

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