Analysis of environmental justice, its roots and its effects on launching The Earth Day, from Boğaziçi University Sustainable Development Goals Student Hub

by Ceren İlayda Başol

The human race has always struggled with the environment negatively or positively throughout the history in terms of trying to prevent natural events and using environmental resources exploitatively for their wants and needs. The environment can be accepted as the combination of  tangible, chemical, and biotic components (such as climate, soil, and living things) that behave upon an organism or an ecological community and finally determine its form and survival (*).As the environment is the mixture of different elements, it cannot be observed from only one side. All interconnected elements like soil, air, water, plants, and non-human animal species should be taken into consideration in an harmonized way under the whole context of the environment.

Especially in the recent decades, people have started to become more aware of how destructed our planet is because of a variety of reasons including human intervention. Thus, they have started to become more proactive and responsible about conserving the environment by focusing on different components. Some people raise their voices against human-caused climate change whereas others try to tackle with water crisis, deforestation, and air pollution that can be caused from non-environmentally friendly transportation vehicles.

When it comes to environmental protection, a concept highly related to sustaining the environment as it should be comes to mind, which is environmental justice. This concept is actually not a new phenomenon and its roots date back 1950s and 60s. The protest about a polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) landfill in Warren County, North Carolina in 1982, which is the event that gave a reason to Environmental Justice Movement (Environmental Protection Agency). Environmental justice can be described as treating everyone fairly and including of all without taking race, color, ethnicity, and income into consideration.

As environmental justice is correlated with the inclusion and embracement of all fairly and equally, it has also boosted the Civil Rights Movement. The Environmental Justice Movement is so comprehensive that it led to a widely accepted event, which is The Earth Day. The Earth Day started to be celebrated on the 22nd of April 1970. Firstly, it was only appreciated inside the borders of the USA and spreaded to other parts of the world in time. This year, its 51st anniversary will be celebrated internationally.

As it can be realised in the picture, the Earth Day may refer to the importance of reducing, recycling, and reusing our consumption goods and services. As production and consumption go in the same direction in most cases, production needs to be managed properly also because when something is produced in high amounts,  it has an impact on a high demand too, which increases consumption patterns of people. Hence, the point is to help people adopt environmentally friendly habits in terms of production and consumption. The Earth Day can be used to promote responsible way of producing and consuming, which will help environmental justice to be succeeded.

In addition to these, as the term environmental justice consists of justice component, fair distribution of resources among nations should be taken into account to end up with justice. Generally,the least developed countries pay the highest costs and suffer from disasters the most as they are denied financial capital, information, and resources to thrive their society, they cannot deal with crisis very successfully. The impacts of environment disasters are imposed on developed countries the least. In this case, environmental justice focuses on these needy areas so the Earth Day is a good revolution to pay attention to problematic regions and their most basic global issues.

Motivating crowded groups of people to behave proactively is a collective so more concerned people are needed to initiate such a revolutionary act. For example, almost three months ago, a short movie about the cruelty of animal testing industry was shared publicly in almost all social media channels. As celebrities and exports shared this short movie in their accounts, this created a viral circle of shares among their followers, which caused more people to see the exploitation of different animals in research labs, cages, and cosmetic factories. However, what we need to focus on is not to pay attention to this problem only when somebody forces us to see the reality. Such an initiative can be effective in accelerating the awareness of people about what they cause to by continuing to behave irresponsibly and irrespectively towards environmental values. Again, just in animal experimentation, sustaining our concerned actions even where there is no external force that will remind us how to behave is the key to environmental justice and resolution of global issues.

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