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What is Environmental justice and why is it important?

Environmental justice refers to the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of their race, color, national origin, or income, in the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. It aims to ensure that no group of people disproportionately bears the burden of environmental hazards, pollution, or degradation and that all people have access to a safe, healthy, and sustainable environment. Environmental injustice occurs when certain communities, such as low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, are exposed to a higher level of environmental risks and hazards, such as toxic waste sites, air and water pollution, and climate change impacts, compared to other communities. These vulnerable communities often lack the political and economic power to influence decision-making processes and are more likely to experience negative health outcomes, such as asthma, cancer, and other respiratory illnesses, as a result of environmental pollution and degradation. Environmental justice advocates for the equitable distribution of environmental benefits and burdens and recognizes the intrinsic link between environmental and social justice. It calls for inclusive and participatory decision-making processes that give all people a voice in shaping their environmental future and promotes the use of environmental policies and strategies that prioritize the protection and improvement of the health and well-being of all communities, particularly the most vulnerable ones.

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