The Quest for Global Environmental Justice, Healthy Communities and Human Rights

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 2:00 PM
Room: 502
Oral Presentation
Robert D. BULLARD , Texas Southern University
This paper utilizes an environmental justice lens to critically analyze the socio-historical connection between the global exploitation of land and the exploitation of people. The environmental justice movement has expanded beyond its initial challenges to environmental racism and advancing civil rights in the United States to become a global movement advancing human rights, sustainability, health equity, food sovereignty, equitable development, clean energy, and climate justice. Climate change is viewed as one of the single most important environmental justice issue of the 21st century. The most vulnerable populations who contribute least to climate change will suffer the earliest and most damaging setbacks because of where they live, their limited income and economic means, and their lack of access to health care.

Increased globalization of the world’s economy has placed special strains on the eco-systems in many marginalized communities in the global North and South. Globalization makes it easier for transnational corporations and capital to flee to areas with the least environmental regulations, best tax incentives, cheapest labor, and highest profit. Despite significant improvements in environmental protection over the past several decades, millions of people largely in developing countries still suffer from the “Big Three” environmental problems: contaminated drinking water, untreated human excrement, and air pollution.

Loopholes in international conventions and treaties still allow transboundary shipment, export, and trading of banned pesticides, hazardous wastes, questionable recyclables, toxic products, and "risky” technologies.  Economic extortion extends to the exploitative work environment of migrant farm workers, garment districts sweatshops, building construction trade, dirty low-paying industrial jobs, and the micro-electronics industry. Workers who suffer under substandard occupational and safety conditions have few rights protected by government.  Global alliances have formed between the “victims” of environmental injustice and have elevated the environmental justice message to the international arena, including the United Nations, World Bank, World Trade Organization.