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Topic: “Not in My Backyard” and Environmental Justice — Your Specific Geographic Area

In the last unit, you discussed natural resources and how important it is to manage them wisely and in a sustainable manner. Many countries have implemented regulations to protect these resources and the environment. This can often involve huge investments in infrastructure such as wastewater treatment facilities. Communities face a number of challenges such as what to do with wastes, how to provide energy to citizens and businesses, and how to regulate industries that might pollute the environment. This is often done on a limited budget and politicians are under a lot of pressure to please a lot of different interest groups as they create the policies and make these decisions.

How does a community decide where to locate a facility such as a wastewater treatment plant or a new factory that could potentially bring many jobs into an area? Consider all of the factories and industrial processes that are needed to support a modern lifestyle. The wastes generated have to go somewhere. Often, people can agree that a new power plant, an oil refinery, or waste disposal site is needed. People have a much harder time agreeing where these facilities should be located within their communities. A common phrase used to describe these phenomena is “not in my backyard” or NIMBY.

Because no one wants to live near certain types of facilities, they traditionally have been concentrated in communities where people have the least influence, power, and/or money to prevent their construction. Once constructed, if these facilities negatively impact public health, the environment, and/or the quality of life, the surrounding communities have fewer resources to monitor the effects and/or demand reparation. Many people are now fighting for what is termed “environmental justice” to ensure that the burdens of dealing with pollution are handled in a manner that is fair to all citizens. For additional background on environmental justice, visit this site:

Environmental Justice: EPA. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/

In 1994, former president Bill Clinton launched a presidential order to address environmental justice in minority and low-income populations. For further information on the presidential order, visit:

Executive Order 12898. (1994, February 11). Federal Register, 59(32). Retrieved from http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/executive-orders/pdf/12898.pdf

Although environmental regulations are set in place, it is often difficult to ensure that those regulations are being followed or enforced. Citizens should be aware of pollutants that might be in their communities. To learn more about what is in your area, you can start looking here:

Superfund Sites Where You Live: EPA. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/

The idea of NIMBY is not limited to one community or country. Rich and powerful countries often impose restrictions and regulate industries and other polluting operations. Complying with environmental regulations can be very costly, so many corporations have moved facilities to countries that either has less stringent environmental practices and/or have fewer resources in place to enforce environmental policies.

This week, please answer the following questions for Discussion:

  1. What facilities (current or historical) might be responsible for the release of pollutants into your community?
  2. Are they spread throughout your community or located in one area?
  3. If you were in charge of setting policies, how would you ensure that the burden of pollution was shared equally or fairly amongst all citizens?
  4. Do some research on your own to find information about a conflict either between communities within the U.S. or abroad that involves NIMBY or any other environmental justice-type issues. Share what you find with the class and provide the source. Be sure to include:
    1. The country, region, and/or state.
    2. What the conflict was.
    3. Was there a resolution or not? Provide a brief overview.

Be sure to address all Discussion Board topics in an original, well-thought-out, respectful manner. Main posts should fully and completely discuss each question posed and make frequent, informed references to this unit's material. Engage in ongoing, productive conversation by responding to a minimum of two classmates per topic.

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