Today, as the Black Lives Matter movement achieves real momentum throughout the U.S focusing on structural racism, Environmental Justice needs to be recognized as an important component of this structural racism at a national level and also within the City of Evanston.
For more than a century, Black Americans and other minority groups have endured environmental racism in this country. Historically, industries purposely located their facilities in minority communities and expelled smoke, toxic waste, loud noise and other unwanted byproducts into these neighborhoods. And through many decades of institutional racism, developers and land use officials expected little resistance.
Eventually, in the 1980s, when a scathing report highlighted the unfair portion of adverse environmental impacts endured by minority and low-income communities, the Environmental Justice movement was born. The term “Environmental Justice” was coined to describe the desired goal for all people in a community to experience an equitable distribution of environmental assets (trees, parks, access to beaches, …) and liabilities (air and water pollution, odors, noise, inaccessibility to healthy foods, truck traffic, …)
Evanstonians should be aware of two critical points regarding environmental justice in our own City. First, City residents and business owners should understand that when environmental decisions and conditions unfair to people of color present themselves, they can and should be addressed. And second, there is work going on right now in Evanston to achieve Environmental Justice, and that work needs your support.
Environmental Justice Evanston (EJE), a working committee of Citizens’ Greener Evanston, and the City of Evanston are currently working together to develop an Environmental Justice resolution and subsequent ordinance to combat environmental justice issues within the city. EJE has also been supporting the City in its efforts to study and address the environmental impacts the Church Street Waste Transfer Station may be having on its surrounding neighbors. Additionally, the Smith Park Neighbors community group recently was successful in working with the City and State of Illinois to end an odor producing process of an industrial company near Smith Park on Ashland Avenue.
These important Environmental Justice efforts have been taking place in Evanston for quite a while now urged on by a small number of volunteers. To complete the current effort to enact an Environmental Justice resolution and ordinance, and to extend this work to address other instances of environmental racism, inequity and neglect, we need your involvement and support.
We invite community members, especially Black, Latinx and other people of color of all ages, to join us in this work to achieve Environmental Justice in Evanston. We want to know about the environmental conditions in your communities, and we want your skills, vision and understanding of social issues to help us address the environmental racism that needs to be eliminated from our own city and the nation as quickly as possible.
Ms. Alexander Davis and Mr. Nelson are Co-Chairs of Environmental Justice Evanston
A working committee of Citizens’ Greener Evanston