The systems that prosper under capitalism have historically strained society of natural resources. The value of monetary gain and production vs. environmental sustainability has created an exhaustion of resources and has created hierarches of difference. Ultimately, leading to a chain of events and effects. Distinct environmental crises in vulnerable areas are an example of such. Throughout time, policies at the state and national level have been enacted in order to protect the environment and ultimately impact the quality of life for all. However, many policies have not been regulated and enforced as should.1 To fully understand the current urgency of environmental sustainability, I will be referencing the crisis of the West Calumet Housing Complex (WCSC) in East Chicago, Indiana; a contemporary example of the impacts of non-regulated environmental policies on vulnerable, displaced populations of color.
The West Calumet Housing Complex in East Chicago was discovered to have high rates of lead contamination in the water and the soil.Information that residents were unaware of until the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) informed them in 2008, despite the existing contamination when the complex was built in 1972 on the land of a former plant.2 In Figure A by the New York Times, the proximity of the smelting plant, schools, and urban sections can be seen.
The jeopardization of the health and wellbeing of displaced populations of color serves as the example that environmental sustainability is not accessible to them. Their intersecting identities create the avenue for systematic damage to be done to their lives. Currently, a high number of children have been tested and shown to have large, unhealthy levels of lead in their bodies.4
1 Konisky, D. (2009). Inequities in Enforcement? Environmental Justice and Government Performance. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 28(1), 102-121.
2 Goodnough, A. (2016, August 30). Their Soil Toxic, 1,100 Indiana Residents Scramble to Find New Homes.
3 Image. Varjacques, L. (2017, June 26). The Compounded Pain of Contamination and Dislocation.
4 Varjacques, L. (2017, June 26). The Compounded Pain of Contamination and Dislocation.
5 Kuehn, R. (1994) Environmental Justice: The Merging of Civil Rights and Environmental Activism: Remedying the Unequal Enforcement of Environmental Laws. St. John’s Journal of Legal Commentary.