As I research environmental justice in the United States, I am drawn more and more to issues surrounding the lack of environmental benefits that communities experience, as opposed to direct environmental harms. Environmental justice encompasses both sides of the coin; while burdening communities with pollutants seems the more obvious injustice, lack of amenities such as green-space and parks or fresh food also plays a role in people’s quality of life, and is an environmental injustice to those communities who do not have access to such essential amenities.
Access to fresh food is sometimes characterized as a separate movement known as the community food security movement, despite its common goals with environmental justice. Both seek to ensure justice to communities lacking in equality, and both look at the big picture to recognize that there are many different factors contributing to the injustice. I think the issue of food security should be characterized as a subset of environmental justice. After all, our environment is more than the trees, air, and water around us. Our environment is made up of whatever surrounds and affects us. It not only involves where we live, but how we live, what we’re exposed to, how it benefits us or doesn’t. If you were enrolling your child in a new school, you would probably want to know about the environment…that doesn’t mean you are wondering if there are any trees around or whether the air quality is good (although in some cases, to be discussed at a later date, it may). What you are really wondering is if the school environment will enrich your child, allow him or her to reach their full potential, provide a safe place to learn, be encouraging and supportive, and ultimately serve the purpose for which it was intended. We need to look at communities the same way. The environment in which we live definitely involves trees, air, and water, but it is so much more than that; access to fresh food is a vital component of the quality of one’s environment, and lack of access to it is an injustice to that community.