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. Office of
olume 18, Number 1 Communication of Michigan
of Michigan March/April 1992 and Public Affa
John Heritage Editor
Karen Flagstad Associate Editor
Ruth Barker Assistant Editor
Jack Lewis Assistant Editor
Nancy Starnes Assistant Editor
Douglass Lea Contributing Editor Marilyn Rogers Circulation Manager
s it time that we broadened the definition of environmental protection in this country?
The physical environment of America's minorities—Hispanics, Native Americans, Asians, African Americans, the poor of any color-has in one way or another been left out of the environmental cleanup of the past two decades. Black children, as a whole, have more lead in their blood than do white children. Blacks are decidedly overrepresented in air-pollution nonattainment areas. The environment of migrant farm workers, particularly in their exposure to hazardous pesticides, has not been well protected, to say the least. People of color are much more likely to have hazardous waste sites in their backyards than are whites. Some environmental problems suffered by minorities are not even in the standard lexicon: poorly insulated homes that are hot in summer and cold in winter; neighborhoods infested with rats.
The environmental effort launched by Earth Day, 1970, has been largely defined by middle and upper class whites. It has been environmentalism with a big E, a specialized activity serving a special segment of our society. Environmental protection laws have largely reflected that definition. Ironically, Earth Day, itself, was socially oriented and broad based, involving tens of millions of people of all ages, incomes, and regions of the country.
Some will argue that, for the most part, minorities and the poor have not volunteered for the environmental movement. Agreed; they may have had more pressing problems. Does that mean that they should not share in the benefits?
A skeptic says, "If you broaden the definition of protection to include the devastated environment of the inner city, where is the end?" It may be that there is no end, only a goal, one that we can strive for but never completely achieve: decency, compassion, hope. It may be that every social cause should, fundamentally, have this aim. Not simply because it is right, but because on a planet with great risks as well as great benefits, it is realistic. O
Editorial Assistance Leighton Price
Design Credits Ron Farrah James R. Ingram Robert Flanagan
Front Cover: November 1988: Young activist in Louisiana Toxics March protests pollution from petrochemical plants along Mississippi. Copyright Sam Kittner.
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