Mapping environmental injustice…

You can now listen to my talk about environmental justice and how it shows up on the landscape, from the Q Conference in Nashville back in April, as it’s just been posted as a podcast. The video may be up next week, and I’ll update this post with the link.

In the talk I referred a slide that shows a map of Atlanta, which was drawn from the amazing Racial Dot Map of the University of Virginia’s Demographic Research Group. You really should visit the map site and try mapping your city, to get a better understanding of who lives where. The present-day patterns of continued racial segregation in American cities are fascinating and revealing, and worth their own talk.

In another post I’ll explain how to get maps of your neighborhood that show environmental hazards. For now, here’s two slides that I referred to in the talk. I apologize that they’re crude, but they give the basic picture of how families can experience completely different environments depending on the racial makeup of their neighborhood.

First the racial dot map for Atlanta (from the 2010 Census):

Race dot map

Then the same map, with environmental hazards overlain (taken from EJSCREEN, the EPA’s Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool):

toxic facility overlay

The same basic patterns are replicated across the landscape in the U.S. Explanations vary for how such disproportionate exposures to toxics emerge, but the bodies of kids growing up in polluted neighborhoods bear the burden of the toxins, not the explanations for them. We need the moral imagination to conceive of a different world for those kids.

Tearfund, the organization I work for, calls the product of that moral imagination the Restorative Economy, an economy that works for everyone, and that respects environmental limits. I’ll be writing more about the Restorative Economy in the next few months.

By the way, I think the Q Ideas conference space is one of the best spaces at bringing people together for hard conversations. It’s been amazing to be connected with them for many years now. If you’ve never been, try to go in 2019.