Communities populated primarily by ethnic minorities and economically disadvantaged people have long been burdened with a disproportionate number of environmental hazards such as garbage dumps, toxic waste facilitates, scrap yards, factories, and other sources of pollutants and foul odors that significantly lower the quality of life. This is not just a historical fact but a present-day reality. A study published in 2022 found that Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, along with low-income communities, shoulder an outsized burden of the harm caused by pesticides in the United States. And a 2021 report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that people of color are likelier to live near polluters and breathe polluted air. This disproportionate harm also extends to the effects of climate change, as these perpetually underserved communities are the least able to prepare for, and recover from, heat waves, poor air quality, flooding, and other climate-related impacts.
If you are interested in learning more about environmental justice issues, including how climate change disproportionately impacts ethnic minorities and economically disadvantaged people, we have put together a reading list of books that are generally acknowledged to be of particular significance in the field.
The Rise of the American Conservation Movement: Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection by Dorceta E. Taylor
Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism in the United States by Carl A. Zimring
Engage, Connect, Protect: Empowering Diverse Youth as Environmental Leaders by Angelou Ezeilo and Nick Chiles
As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rockby Dina Gilio-Whitaker
Dumping In Dixie: Race, Class, And Environmental Quality by Robert D. Bullard
From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of the Environmental Justice Movement by Luke W. Cole and Sheila R. Foster
Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility by Dorceta E. Taylor
Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret by Catherine Coleman Flowers
Garbage Wars: The Struggle for Environmental Justice in Chicago by David Naguib Pellow
Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors Paperback by Carolyn Finney
Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage Paperback – Illustrated by Dianne Glave
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Unequal Protection: Environmental Justice and Communities of Color by Robert D. Bullard
Environmental Justice in a Moment of Danger by Julie Sze