Environmental pollution is not experienced equally in the United States: Low-income communities and communities of color face disproportionately high levels of toxic air pollution and other environmental hazards. What’s more, these communities are also more vulnerable to the health impacts of that pollution due to other social conditions they experience, such as living in underserved neighborhoods, encountering racial discrimination and segregation, and having a lower socioeconomic status. The compounding effects of social and environmental stressors on people’s health is known as cumulative impacts.
Researchers are now better able to characterize the cumulative impacts of environmental hazards—thanks to available geospatial data, new analytical methods, and, importantly, advocacy driven by the impacted communities. At the same time, decision makers are being called upon more and more to collect data, assess impacts, and address environmental health disparities.
At the American Geophysical Union’s virtual 2020 annual meeting, NRDC and the Union of Concerned Scientists co-convened a panel to connect researchers, communities, and decision makers to discuss how scientific evidence can be leveraged for policy solutions. Panel participants included community representatives from Centreville Citizens for Change, Concerned Pastors for Social Action, Delaware Concerned Residents for Environmental Justice, Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform, Equity Legal Services, Lideres Campesinas, Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing & Opportunity Council, Newark Education Workers Caucus, and Newark Water Coalition.
The panel, “Science to Action: Understanding and Addressing the Community Health Disparities Resulting from Air Pollution and Other Environmental Risk Factors,” consisted of eight presentations that explored cumulative impacts data and policy solutions; the interdisciplinary nature of the environmental justice movement; pollution disparities along the lines of race and class; transparency in environmental data; and more. These sessions brought together communities, scientists, and state agencies, offering a more collaborative way forward to advance environmental justice.
The presentations can be found below, as well as on this UCS YouTube playlist.