Conceptualizing the Environment from a Cultural Framework
Most Americans conjure imagery of a planet replete with pristine wilderness, crystal blue oceans, fresh air, and verdant forests when they think about the natural environment. In recent decades, this description is becoming increasingly applicable only to certain areas of the United States because poor and minority communities are overwhelmingly subjected to dangerous environmental hazards. As such, the concept of environmental racism has become a major issue affecting every aspect of their lives because of their placement and proximity to environmentally dangerous areas such as landfills, toxic waste sites, and other forms of pollution. The environmental justice movement seeks to remedy this problem by recognizing the direct link between economic, environmental, race, and health issues. The biggest aim of environmental justice is for all people to live, work, and play in clean, and environmentally safe communities. However, in mainstream American environmentalism, poor and minority communities are typically ignored in environmental communication because their white counterparts dominate the discourse. Recent scholarship suggests that people of color play a crucial role in fighting environmental discrimination because their cultural traditions, experiences, and histories allow them to uniquely communicate environmental risk and health concerns within their communities.
People of color developed unique methods of communicating about the environment as a direct result of discriminatory environmental policies that brought pollution and other forms of environmental encroachment to their communities. For several years, environmental justice ...
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Until the power structure that benefits from the “othering” of minorities and the poor is dismantled, people of color will continue to pay the price. Before attention is given to the cultural traditions or practices of people of color, we must examine the history and mechanisms behind environmental racism. The issue of environmental multicultural education also helps determine whether people of color choose to engage in bettering their communities through environmental activism. The practices and traditions of these groups must also be considered because they are demonstrative of the connectedness to the earth that people of color have and the desire to see nature thrive. More scholarship needs to focus on how people of color discuss environmental risk because they are equally concerned about the safety of their communities, and the health of their families.
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