The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has underscored the racial, social, and economic disparities that have long plagued every part of American society—including the health of our environment. Given the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on minority communities across the country, government officials have focused their efforts on an equitable COVID-19 response. These efforts, however, have ignored marginalized individuals who are incarcerated. With its interdisciplinary approach, the environmental justice framework may provide a meaningful tool to effectively respond to the impact of COVID-19 in prisons.
While much attention is shed upon the climate crisis, intimately intertwined—and arguably a bigger threat to human stability—is the biodiversity crisis. In particular, current industrial agricultural systems accelerate biodiversity loss and amplify climate change, which in turn intensifies widespread food insecurity and has left over 800 million people without adequate nutrition. To combat these intertwining crises, global scale policy is imperative to encourage agricultural practices that sustain the earth’s fragile ecosystem and equitably support communities that depend on it.
As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency turns 50, the federal government remains a laggard on environmental justice. We offer three forward-facing remedies to provide more just outcomes for environmental justice communities through the legal system: refocusing criminal enforcement efforts to prioritize environmental justice communities, further conceptualizing environmental justice communities as victims of crime in the legal system, and expanding the use of crime victim compensation targeted at environmental justice communities. These remedies will ensure that environmental justice communities are better protected from harm and will provide opportunities to better compensate victims.
Michael Zielinski Michael Zielinski is a 3L at William & Mary Law School. This post is part of the Environmental Law Review Syndicate (ELRS). I. Introduction In 1971, the Peruvian theologian and Dominican priest Gustavo Gutiérrez published his seminal work, A Theology of Liberation, in which he advocated an activist approach to Christianity based on