Onlookers view a refinery fire from a distance as black plumes fill the air.In recent months, the larger climate movement has started to embrace the fight against environmental racism.

Environmental racism is the disproportionate impact environmental hazards have on people of color. Environmental justice is the movement’s response to environmental racism.

According to GreenAction — a grassroots environmental justice movement, “Environmental racism refers to the institutional rules, regulations, policies or government and/or corporate decisions that deliberately target certain communities for locally undesirable land uses and lax enforcement of zoning and environmental laws, resulting in communities being disproportionately exposed to toxic and hazardous waste based upon race.”

Not only do threats related to climate change disproportionately affect developing countries (in which a majority of citizens are people of color), but negative environmental activity affects communities of color in developed nations much more seriously than white communities. In the United States, the communities most likely to experience environmental racism are the indigenous communities and poor urban black communities.

In July, Time magazine wrote about environmental racism, stating “For decades, environmental-justice advocates in the U.S. have worked to bring attention to the heightened environmental risks faced by communities of color: higher levels of lead exposure, higher risks of facing catastrophic flooding, and poorer air quality, to name just a few.”

Photo Credit: Pollution released by refinery fire. Greg Kunit/Creative Commons (Flickr)

Read more from Time Magazine. Read more from the UN.

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