PROTECTIONS AND INVESTMENTS FOR SACRIFICE ZONES AND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE COMMUNITIES
Everyone has a right to breathe clean air and drink clean water. But that right is not afforded to people living next to the engines of the extractive economy: refineries, incinerators, industrial agriculture, etc. The extractive economy has sacrificed communities in exchange for accumulating wealth, resources, and power. The past and present harms done to people living in “sacrifice zones” and environmental justice communities must be rectified and repaired. Our society cannot build a more just and healthy economy if communities continue to be seen as expendable.
This is one of the Policy Planks of the United Frontline Table’s toolkit A People’s Orientation to a Regenerative Economy. The policy planks are one of three tools in the kit, together with series of Strategy Questions and the Protect, Repair, Invest, and Transform Framework. Make sure the check out the section on How to Use This Resource to Enhance Your Work and the Working Definitions.
Policy Stances and Priorities
No More Inequitable Investment
Require stipulations on any public funding for “green development” or subject remediation of sacrifice zones to local planning ordinances to ensure against gentrification or family displacement.
Protect and Prioritize Those Most Impacted
Do no harm and prioritize the voices and decisions of climate-impacted communities, sacrifice zone communities, Tribal Nations, and frontline communities in any energy, jobs, land use, and other policies or public investments that impact their communities.
Create a National Environmental Justice Census
Identify sacrifice zones and other racially- and economically-discriminated communities and Tribal Nations using a cumulative impact standard which would measure the historical, current, and potential abuses of all polluters, including public health and multigenerational health impacts; air, soil, and water pollution from multi-contaminants and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; other environmental hazards and hotspots; economic and environmental justice impacts from extraction; and climate vulnerability. These standards would then be linked to restrictions to prevent the establishment of new extractive and pollutive industries or practices—as well as the dismantling of existing ones—and to proposals to maximize co-pollutant reductions in the design of GHG mitigation policies.
Finance targeted investments to repair the harms that have been historically inflicted on environmental justice communities, with an added emphasis on ensuring that financial penalties levied on specific polluters and their corporate parents be reinvested in reparations in the specific impacted communities.
Pass and Enact Strong Regulations
As we transition away from an economy dependent upon extractive and pollutive industries and practices—which disproportionately impact Asian and Pacific Islander, Black, Brown, Indigeneous, poor, and marginalized people—we must strengthen, not weaken, environmental protections and regulations. For example, we need to restrict and regulate greenhouse gas emissions, surface transportation of fossil fuels, disposal of waste from oil and gas drilling, petrochemical development, use and disposal of toxic agrichemicals—the list is endless. These practices are wreaking havoc on communities and the environment.
Community Governance over Remediation, Reclamation, and Restoration
Environmental justice and sacrifice zone communities must have governance over the planning, funding, and implementation over the remediation, reclamation, and restoration of toxic and polluting sites, while investing in solutions that are ecologically-just and build community-wealth.