SNEWS® Live: WE ACT rallies minorities in urban communities to fight for environmental justice

West Harlem Environmental Action (WE ACT) executive director Peggy Shepard discusses issues of environmental justice for minorities and the urban poor with SNEWS® Live.
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SNEWS® Live: Racism is a word that seldom comes up in a discussion about environmental protection. Clean air, water and soil are universal human values that transcend ethnic identity or the color of one's skin. But in metropolitan centers around the United States, minority communities are being inundated with a disproportionate burden of pollution. Industrial waste, municipal garbage and sewage treatment plants are routinely deposited or located in areas predominately populated by low income African-Americans and Hispanics.

These blighted areas are targeted primarily because the people who live there are disenfranchised. They lack the social capital and political clout to fight back. While affluent neighborhoods rid themselves of noxious substances, they impose upon the less fortunate a plague of urban filth. Under these conditions, the poor and minorities are subjected to an unacceptable discrimination.

In New York City, a non-profit organization was formed to address these issues of environmental justice. West Harlem Environmental Action, also known as WE ACT, rallies communities of color to resist the neglect of federal, state and local governments. The group combats policies and referenda that would compel minorities to live in areas so contaminated as to jeopardize their physical health.

SNEWS® Live spoke with WE ACT founder and executive director Peggy Shepard. While much attention is paid to the conservation of wilderness areas, Shepard insists that our cities are in need of environmental protection as well.

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