While media outlets generously cover large-scale issues like global warming, serious environmental problems affecting disadvantaged Americans often go ignored. Residents of low-income and minority communities are often victims of environmental racism, being disproportionately affected by hazardous waste dumping, pollution, and limited access to healthy food.
But one program is trying to counterbalance these disparities. City Slicker Farms is an innovative urban farm in West Oakland, California, that sells organic food on a sliding scale. In an interview with Earth Island Journal, founder Willow Rosenthal argues that people shouldn’t have to choose between eating cheaply and eating well. Because organic farms aren’t subsidized by the government, the cost of organically grown food is high. Rosenthal thinks people would choose to eat locally and organically grown food if it was more affordable. So far, she’s right. The five empty lots that Rosenthal and volunteers transformed into urban gardens have been very popular with the community.
“There’s this perception, maybe, that the environmental movement is very white, and that people of color don’t understand what’s going on, and that’s absolutely not true,” Rosenthal says. “People of all different walks of life are very capable of understanding what’s being done to them, and what’s happening to them. And they see that our environment is completely inundated with toxins, and that in low-income communities there are more, because people aren’t as able to fight against industries that are polluting.”
For more information on environmental justice, check out the Environmental Justice for All stories in the March-April 2008 Utne Reader.
Image by cogdogblog, licensed by Creative Commons.