The theme for Earth Day 2023, "Invest in our Planet," highlights the importance of dedicating our time, resources, and energy to solving climate change and other environmental issues. Investing in our planet is necessary to protect it and the best way to pave a path towards a prosperous future. The theme also highlights the need for inclusive and equitable solutions to environmental challenges, ensuring that everyone has an equal voice in protecting our planet.
Environmental racism refers to the fact that marginalized communities are more likely to be exposed to environmental hazards than other communities are therefore disproportionately affected by environmental problems. For example, hazardous waste sites are more likely to be located in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. This can lead to higher rates of health problems, such as cancer and respiratory illnesses, in these communities. It is important to note that these issues do not affect everyone equally.
Air pollution is a significant environmental problem that affects millions of people worldwide. However, marginalized communities are more likely to live in areas with high levels of air pollution. According to a study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), people of color are exposed to more polluted air than white people.
- South Bronx, New York: The South Bronx is a predominantly low-income community of color that is surrounded by highways, waste transfer stations, and other sources of air pollution. As a result, residents in this area have higher rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
- Cancer Alley, Louisiana: Cancer Alley is an 85-mile stretch of land along the Mississippi River that is home to more than 150 industrial facilities. The majority of the residents in this area are low-income people of color, and they have higher rates of cancer and other health problems due to exposure to air pollution.
Water pollution is another environmental problem that disproportionately affects marginalized communities. Many low-income neighborhoods and communities of color lack access to clean and safe drinking water. According to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), people of color are more likely to live in areas with unsafe levels of drinking water.
- Flint, Michigan: In 2014, the city of Flint switched its water source to the Flint River, which was contaminated with lead and other toxins. This decision led to a public health crisis, with thousands of residents, many of whom are low-income people of color, being exposed to unsafe levels of lead in their drinking water.
- Standing Rock, North Dakota: The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota has been fighting against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline since 2016. The pipeline, which carries crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois, was originally supposed to cross the Missouri River upstream of the state capital, but the route was changed to pass through the Standing Rock Reservation. The tribe argues that the pipeline threatens their water supply and their sacred sites.
Climate change is one of the most significant environmental problems we face today. It affects the entire planet, but marginalized communities are more likely to suffer the consequences. For example, people living in low-lying areas are more vulnerable to the effects of sea-level rise, such as flooding and erosion. In addition, people living in low-income neighborhoods may not have the resources to cope with extreme weather events, such as heatwaves and hurricanes.
- Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana: Hurricane Katrina, which hit Louisiana in 2005, disproportionately affected low-income communities of color. The majority of the people who were displaced by the storm were African American, and many of them were unable to return to their homes due to the high cost of rebuilding.
- Heatwaves, Arizona: Heatwaves are becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change, and they disproportionately affect low-income communities of color in cities like Phoenix, Arizona. These communities often lack access to air conditioning and green spaces, which makes them more vulnerable to heat-related illnesses.
Loss of biodiversity is another environmental problem that disproportionately affects marginalized communities. Indigenous communities, for example, rely on the land and its resources for their livelihoods and cultural practices. However, deforestation, pollution, and other environmental problems have led to the loss of biodiversity and the destruction of natural habitats.
- Alaska Native communities: Indigenous communities in Alaska rely on the land and its resources for their livelihoods and cultural practices. However, climate change and other environmental problems are leading to the loss of biodiversity and the destruction of natural habitats, which threatens the way of life of these communities.
- Appalachian Mountains, West Virginia: Mountaintop removal mining, which involves blasting the tops off of mountains to extract coal, has led to the loss of biodiversity and the destruction of natural habitats in the Appalachian Mountains. This practice disproportionately affects low-income communities in this region.
- How To Do Earth Day 2023 Toolkit
- The Great Global Cleanup Toolkit
- Watch Live Earth Week (April 14-22)
- Earth Day 5k or 10k Race
- Earth Day Tree Sale
- How much do you know about Earth? Test your knowledge with these quizzes
- Visit the official Earth Day website on ways to participate
- Attach the design element to your email signature and social media you can use to raise awareness for Earth Day 2023!
For additional education and personal development related to diversity, equity and
inclusion, the following resources are available: DEI Education and Resources, DEI & Antiracism Resources from the UNC Libraries, the Education Equity Toolkitfrom the Colorado Department of Higher Education, and the UNITE workshops for faculty, staff, and students.