Building a city for humans to live and thrive in requires the construction of many industrial sites, living next to which is unsafe and unappealing. Such things as wastewater managing plants, landfills, electrical plants, toxic waste dumps, and incinerators, or Locally Unwanted Land Uses, present genuine dangers of polluting the air and poisoning the water. Living next to them and bearing the full brunt of that environmental impact is a fate best avoided. However, it seems that avoiding it is a lot more difficult for ethnicities other than “white” and “rich.”
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It would stand to reason that real estate adjacent to the unsanitary and unsafe industrial zones would be significantly less attractive, thus less expensive, thus available for the less fortunate. It would also stand to reason that, with all the economic and social disadvantages faced by the ethnic minorities, they would be the ones predominately living there. However, Robert Bullard quotes a 1992 study that had found racial inequity in treating toxic environments that were present regardless of the communities’ wealth. It appears that the policies and penalties regarding pollution were lax in non-white neighborhoods, even if they were of relatively high income. Polluters in non-white neighborhoods were dealt with later, less severely, and less permanently than in white neighborhoods. That inequity exists on top of the fact that minority groups predominately populate areas around the LULUs. Native American reservations face similar problems, since their lands are less protected from LULUs by the federal government due to the lack of jurisdiction, meaning that pollution often goes unchecked.
Bullard proposes a “framework of environmental justice” that would change the way the American government handles polluters. The primary way to redress the damage already done is to relieve the at-risk communities of the burden of proof, which often leads to a delayed or lacking reaction from the authorities. Another important measure is to ensure transparency, as frequently, the polluters are large corporations, which can use their money and influence to dictate their conditions to the impoverished victims in settlements and lawsuits. Bullard sees the solution in the federal government taking a more active role in protecting the at-risk groups, similarly to how the Civil Rights legislation was enacted.