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The water crisis in Flint is the most egregious example of environmental injustice in recent U.S. history, according to a founder of the movement who has studied the issue for three decades.
Paul Mohai, a professor at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability, began studying environmental justice in the late 1980s, just a few years after the movement began.
U-M - Mohai - SEAS - Professor - Bunyan
At U-M, Mohai and emeritus SEAS professor Bunyan Bryant organized the 1990 Michigan Conference on Race and the Incidence of Environmental Hazards, and they were part of an influential group of scholars that became known as the Michigan Coalition.
Since those early days, numerous studies—including several by Mohai and Bryant—have revealed a pattern across the country: Certain communities are disproportionately burdened by environmental contamination and health risks. Like Flint, those places tend to be locations where poor people and people of color are concentrated.
Places - Residents - Meaningful - Decisions - Communities
"They are also places where residents are not given meaningful say in the decisions that affect their communities and quality of life, where their concerns about pollution and the health impacts are minimized, discounted or dismissed, and where residents are treated disrespectfully and shown they have little influence or clout," Mohai writes in an article published Oct. 19 in the Michigan Sociological Review.
Flint fits that pattern, and the scale of what happened there "has made environmental justice a part of the American consciousness," he wrote.
Magnitude - Disaster - Flint - Role - Officials
"Given the magnitude of the disaster in Flint, the role that public officials' decisions played that led to the poisoning of the city's water, their slow pace at acknowledging and responding to the problem, and the fact that Flint is a city of almost 100,000 people indeed makes this the most egregious example of environmental injustice and racism in my over three decades of studying this issue."
Over the years, several definitions of environmental justice...
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