Take Note: Robert Bullard On The Critical Role of Environmental Justice

Except of interview with Dr. Robert Bullard on WPSU:

Cheraine Stanford

You’ve done research all around the country showing that for a lot of people of color, poor people, there is a disproportionate number of sort of these negative these things that no one wants in their communities like landfills and toxic chemical plants and those kinds of things. How do those affect the lives and the health outcomes of people in those communities?

Robert Bullard:

Yeah. Well, you know, it’s, uh, it’s very important to, for people to understand that America is segregated and so is pollution. And today unlike, you know, 30, 40 years ago, we have a very good tools and methodologies and with GIS mapping we can map where the pollution is and where the population is and where the, the health outcomes that may somehow result from having all this stuff that’s concentrated. We call those areas that have, that are over polluted sacrifice zones or areas that are oversaturated. And so if you look at the cumulative impact of having so much toxic pollution loaded into one spatial geographic area, and oftentimes we’re not talking about large land masses. We’re talking about the areas that we have a high concentration of people, but also high concentration of, of pollution. And the, the health outcomes end up showing that there’s elevated cancer, respiratory illnesses like asthma, there’s elevated issues relating to sarcoidosis, cardiovascular, all kinds of diseases that, that emanate from being over polluted. And these are also areas that have a smaller share of things that make communities healthy, which is parks and green space, walk trails, grocery stores, farmer’s markets, access to health care and hospitals. And so you talk about the, the built environment and how the built environment impacts health. And if you have more than your fair share of those externalities of the things that make people unhealthy, then it’s, it’s a, it’s a matter of time, not rocket science, but it’s more of political science that will determine the fact that people are going to be sick and that they’re going to be vulnerable. Vulnerable to natural and manmade disasters such as explosions, accidents. If people don’t have cars to evacuate when there’s a flood, or a natural disaster, then they’re going to suffer. You’re going to have more deaths related to those disasters. If people are vulnerable because of underlying health conditions and the fact that people are sicker than the general population then if some type of pandemic like COVID-19, you know, happens to occur within a geographic area, it’s going to hit that population the hardest. So it’s not rocket science that black people are dying disproportionately, because when it comes to this pandemic. It’s a matter of looking at the map and looking at where the vulnerabilities are and, and then looking at the co-morbidity. This has always been the disparate outcomes of having so much pollution and so much of the, the built environment that somehow has neglected African-American and other people of color, poor people, over generations. We’re not talking about something that happened 20 years or 50 years. We are talking about in some cases, centuries of neglect and in many cases the government was part of institutionalizing that kind of structural inequality.

Posted in

Nadia Ahmad

Leave a Reply