Environmental Social Justice

What is Environmental Justice?

The EPA defines Environmental Justice (EJ) as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. The environmental justice movement traces its origins back to the 1980s where it grew in response to the disproportionate environmental burdens communities of color and low-income communities bear including pollution, industrial production, and processing facilities, landfills, and power plants. Simultaneously these communities often have fewer environmental benefits like parks, gardens, and green spaces, while facing inadequate health care, access to healthy food, less political power. The Environmental Justice Movement leverages the gains and protections from the American Civil Rights movement and recognizing discrimination also happens in terms of environmental benefits and burdens.

The environmental justice movement operates from a broader interpretation of ‘environment’ than has historically been used by the environmental movement; one that includes human habitats: places where people live, work and play. Environmental Justice views one’s home, office, or school playground as being just as much a part of the environment as rivers, forests, and parks. For example, the concern for clean water is not limited to rivers, lakes, and streams. It also includes the water coming from the tap in your kitchen, which may contain contaminants if your home has lead pipes or if the water comes from an unregulated source, such as a well serving a small or transient population.

Measuring Environmental Justice

EJSCREEN is an environmental justice mapping and screening tool that provides EPA with a nationally consistent dataset and approach for combining environmental and demographic indicators. EJSCREEN users choose a geographic area; the tool then provides demographic and environmental information for that area. All of the EJSCREEN indicators are publicly available data. EJSCREEN simply provides a way to display this information and includes a method for combining environmental and demographic indicators into EJ indexes.

EJSCREEN includes:

UMBC EJ Screen

UMBC has adapted EJ Screen to better serve not only our Retriever community but also our neighboring communities. The Office of Sustainability has developed the following tools to help better communicate EJ data:

  1. Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool
  2. UMBC EJ SCREEN Dashboard