Environmental justice may be defined many ways. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines environmental justice as:
“[t]he fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Fair treatment means that no population, due to policy or economic disempowerment, is forced to bear a disproportionate share of the negative human health or environmental impacts of pollution or environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal, and commercial operations or the execution of federal, state, local and tribal programs and policies.”
Other definitions could be provided; most recognize the common core principle expressed by Dr. Robert Bullard that “all people and communities are entitled to equal protection of environmental and public health laws and regulation.” We affirm related concerns such as protection from toxic contamination; rights of self-determination, participation, and informed consent; and non-discriminatory public policy based on mutual respect as expressed in the 17 Principles of Environmental Justice adopted by the 1991 National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit. We also recognize that, crucially, ‘the environment’ means not just “wilderness” and nonhuman species and ecosystems but also, as Bullard argues, “where we live, work, play, go to school.” In other words, culture is inextricably tied to places and landscapes and thus bound up in issues of environmental justice.
With these concepts and understandings in hand, we seek to draw attention to instances of environmental injustice, inequality, and unfairness in the U.S. Southwest, the region in which we live. We hope to broaden the range of issues commonly thought of as characteristic of environmental injustice and thereby contribute to, and hopefully expand, public dialogue around issues of environmental injustice and inequality in the U.S. Southwest and beyond.