(un)Just Sustainabilities online Exhibit

This online exhibit for Professor Heather Bedi’s Environmental and Social Justice class allows Dickinson College students to reflect on environmental injustices and demographic trends in their neighborhood, town, city, or state. In defining just sustainabilities, Agyeman et al. (2003) argue that social and economic inequalities across place exacerbate environmental injustices. They advocate for human equality to be central in sustainability efforts. Students explore (un) just sustainabilities in their place through a paper and a publicly exhibited zero-waste visual or audio project.

Hazardous Waste in New Jersey

For my project I decided to focus on hazardous waste dumping by looking at the surrounding area of a hazardous waste dumping site on the border of Passaic and Garfield, New Jersey.  I picked this site because I noticed a pattern that there were alot more dumping sites in inner city towns like these than nearby suburbs, despite these cities actually being closer to New York City than the suburbs.  I decided to focus on the wastewater discharge indicator, which is in the 84%  percentile nationally for the surrounding region near the site. This measures the rate in which pollutants that come from wastewater that originate in household items like sinks, showers, and dishwashers, are infecting nearby bodies of water. If left untreated this water is often consumed by humans and animals without knowledge of its dangers, causing various diseases and viruses. Unsurprisingly, In this specific area where wastewater discharge is so prevalent,  other areas like respiratory hazard index and air toxins cancer risk are above the 60% percentile nationally. Through further research on maps focusing in on education, language, and population statistics, it’s clear that minorities, those with less income, and those with less education, are all disproportionately affected by environmental bads, in this case hazardous waste. Immediately surrounding the hazardous waste site, not only are there many families below the poverty line and the number of people with a bachelor’s degree decrease, but also the english speaking population decreases, average household incomes decreased, and the overall amount of people enrolled in school decrease. Hazardous waste sites can greatly affect the health of the people near them, it can impact water and food quality, air quality, and in turn human beings health. While environmental bads like hazardous waste dumping negatively affect the humans beings that surround them, it is clear that the process that decides when and where these environmental bads will occur is incredibly calculated and forged deep into our societal social justice issues, factors of privilege like education, income, race, and class all lead to the voiceless and underrepresented members of our society being stuck with the negatives that come with hazardous waste that eventually lead to poor health among other things.

I have put together a video that goes more deeply into the issue below.

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