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  • Writer's pictureClaudia Schreier

Social Justice and the Environment

Updated: May 12, 2022

What’s Environmental Justice?

The only way to ensure that our Earth has a healthy and prosperous future is to protect all people living on the planet. Everyone deserves to live and work in conditions that offer them as much protection as possible from environmental hazards. The constant struggle to improve the health of our environment must include environmental justice efforts. The US Environmental Protection Agency defines environmental justice as the “fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income.” This means in environmentalism, as well as in city planning, scientific research, and all other ways the environment can be intertwined with society, equal and equitable involvement is essential. It is an unfortunate reality that there are communities across the globe that are not treated equally when it comes to interactions with the environment. The people who live and work in America’s most polluted environments are commonly low-income and people of color. Poor communities of color are targeted in acts of environmental racism which can result in environmental degradation in the community and health consequences for residents.

Image from Josiah Gascho on Unsplash

Climate Change and Environmental Racism

Communities of color and low-income communities are disproportionately affected by climate change. Cities already generate heat, and people who live in low-income urban communities with little tree canopy are more likely to be vulnerable to the serious effects of extreme heat. Many cities are stuck in a positive feedback loop of heat generation. If there are fewer trees, there is less carbon dioxide being absorbed, and the city then gets hotter due to the greenhouse gas effect. In Philadelphia, for example, some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city have streets lined with trees, and the streets of the low-income communities of color are barren. These neighborhoods with more shade can be 22 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than the hotter parts of the city with less tree coverage. Low-income residents in Philadelphia and communities of color have less access to resources that can keep homes cool, and only a fraction of the city’s public school system are air conditioned. This is not just an environmental concern, it is also a public health concern; heat-related death in the United States disproportionately affects people of color living in urban areas.


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Addressing Local Underserved Communities

It has also been shown that residents of many communities in Northern Delaware, where Carbon Reform has our headquarters, are disproportionately affected by air pollution from cars, power plants, and chemical facilities. The amount of contaminated waste sites and the industrial property’s proximity to communities also plays a role in local environmental degradation and increased health hazards. A 2017 report found that health consequences, such as cancer risk and respiratory hazards, were present in seven communities in New Castle County. These risks are substantially greater than those of wealthier, predominantly white neighborhoods in Delaware and Delaware as a whole. This is why both reducing emissions and pursuing other efforts like carbon capture are so important in the area. Carbon Reform is addressing issues of excess heat in local areas through carbon capture efforts. Our Carbon Capsule device can be installed in offices, educational facilities, hospitals, and other commercial buildings, providing cleaner air and protecting occupant health both indoors and out by capturing local carbon dioxide from the air.

Carbon Reform’s local outreach goes beyond climate and health concerns, because we know environmental injustice is intimately tied to social and political strife. The state of Delaware incarcerates more people per 100,000 than any other state. In fact, Delaware incarcerates more people per 100,000 than the entire national and global average for wealthy countries. Additionally, Black residents are incarcerated at a disproportionate rate; Black residents make up one fifth of the population in Delaware, but are five times more likely to be incarcerated than white residents. The combination of environmental racism and disproportionate incarceration rates leads to a community in need of understanding and opportunity.

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We believe that it is our responsibility as a local company and employer to offer opportunities to our community members, especially those who have been kept down by the injustices listed above. For that reason, we are developing a training program for former inmates who are interested in taking on a new career path. A trade track including transportation, HVAC, and construction services, as well as a technology track including environment, health, and safety, lab tech, and management positions will be included. We are very interested in partnering with another local organization to be sure we develop this program in a way that makes sense for the participants, so please reach out if you have suggestions. Stay tuned and follow us along on our journey of actualizing this mission.

To learn more about the Carbon Reform mission, visit the rest of our website:

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