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Op-ed

Those Living in Poverty Should Not be Held Accountable for the Environment

There has been evident progress regarding the environmental movement in the United States. Initiated in the 1960s, this modern initiative has been ingrained into society and has spurred debate over issues such as climate change, veganism, etc. Inherently, this movement is most prominent in more affluent communities. Unequivocally, it is quite difficult to be within the reigns of poverty and extensively contribute to the global urge to “Go Green!” in a world that does little to alleviate what hinders the absorption environmental movement in impoverished communities. 

Frankly, having the ability to even consider the implications of being an environmental connoisseur is a privilege. In a 2

Photo: Mike Mozart via Flickr Creative Commons

004 study, Rachel Massey discussed the correlation between three factors: income, race and health. She found that impoverished and/or minority communities suffer the most consequences related to “environmental degradation,” and that this burden is disproportionately distributed. This is evident in the Flint, Michigan water crisis today – a city that is mostly black with nearly half of the population living in poverty has been neglected by the government since 2014. What seems to be the central outcry is from outside communities who are advocates for those in Flint – how will a community concerned with clean drinking water fight beyond accessibility to a necessary natural resource?  

In addition to mere environmental concern, it is difficult for those impoverished to switch to healthier and environmentally-conscious eating habits, such as veganism, over the diet that has been perpetuated by corporations that capitalize on the economic inequity in certain communities. Fast-food restaurants create their havens in low-income communities – the poor have a better chance at finding a local McDonald’s than reasonably-priced food within their tax bracket at a local grocery store. This is merely a representation of why our natural prototype for a vegan is a thin, glowing, typically white individual posing with organic fruits and vegetables that cost a fortune from the farmer’s market. It is not that poorer communities are intentionally indifferent to eating healthier, but rather the profit gained by corporations who sell unhealthy food steers them in the direction of impoverished areas and unambiguously, the public is more so indifferent to the true hardships behind the poor becoming conscientious of their food choices.  

The problem lies within the tendency for the public, especially affluent citizens, to exert this responsibility to uphold proposed initiatives on global environmental detriment on the impoverished and less-privileged members of society.

There is due respect granted in regard to the environmental movement contributing to awareness on issues plaguing the environment. The problem lies within the tendency for the public, especially affluent citizens, to exert this responsibility to uphold proposed initiatives on global environmental detriment on the impoverished and less-privileged members of society. Of course, the movement itself is an efficient and necessary mode of momentum for a holistic environmental conscience. Though, for it to be a true surge toward sustainability, it must become more inclusive of those who are not granted the same accessibility to healthier foods and time to advocate for more government involvement in environmental issues.  

Although the national and international shift toward this initiative has phenomenal potential implications – with attributes such as the potential of having 8.1 million lives saved per year on a global scale and a 70% drop in food-related emissions – it fails to account for those in the shadows of society. Hopefully, with the ongoing advocacy for such a movement, it soon will cease to urge everyone to participate when many are left without the resources needed to do so.  

Photo: Global Policy

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Sade is a 17-year-old residing in the United States of America. She is passionate about all forms of communicative arts and Hawaiian-style pizza. She hopes to attend New York University's College of Arts and Sciences to major in journalism and minor in creative writing.

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