HISTORY OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE MOVEMENT
The civil rights movement gave rise to the concept of Environmental Justice but upon the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., all discussions about it were under the radar until 1982 when residents in the town of Afton in Warren County, North Carolina, mounted mass demonstrations against a landfill where the state planned to dump contaminated soil. The dirt was laced with toxins called polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, a now-banned substance that even then, the EPA knew to cause birth defects and potentially cancer.
“We know why they picked us,” the Rev. Luther G. Brown, pastor of Coley Springs Baptist Church, said at the time. “It’s because it’s a poor county — poor politically, poor in health, poor in education and because it’s mostly black. Nobody thought people like us would make a fuss.”
The protests and lawsuits didn’t stop the landfill; it was approved and actually expanded. But the attention that the protests and demonstrations gained from it sparked a national awareness of environmental racism–a term coined by Dr. Ben Chavis–and the unequal burdens from air, water, and soil contamination borne by low income and people of color. As a result, Environmental Justice organizations working to end the disproportionate burdens and level the playing field sprung up all over the country.
Who We Are
The Connecticut Coalition for Environmental and Economic Justice , founded on air quality issues in 1998 by Dr. Mark Mitchell, is a statewide coalition of diverse organizations and constituencies who possess the shared vision of leveling the playing field of justice by building collective power in order to WIN. Together, we represent many affected elements of the communities we serve: Environmental, social justice, housing, criminal justice, public safety, transportation, poverty and economic justice, educators, land-use, health and human service professionals, agriculture, and environmental justice advocates. Additionally, there are hundreds of individual members–those most impacted by injustice—who reside primarily in the state’s urban centers such as Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, and Waterbury.
The mission of the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice is to abolish the institutional practices that adversely affect urban environments and to improve environmental health, through educating our community, through promoting changes in governmental policy, and through promoting individual, corporate and governmental responsibility towards our environment. We define environment as including the places where we live, work, play and go to school.
We strive to be recognized as a leader committed to abolishing environmental racism and achieving environmental justice by bringing awareness to the injustices, educating and empowering those impacted to speak and advocate for themselves, and by preparing a seat at the decision-making tables where they can inject their culture, their values, and their needs into the formation of environmental and health-related rules, policies, and laws.
We value one’s right to:
- Self determination.
- Be free from harm.
- Speak for oneself.