“We believe all people should be protected from environmental hazards and have equal access to a healthy environment…”
Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution reads that “The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.” As environmental justice interns at Penn State’s Sustainability Institute, we believe all people should be protected from environmental hazards and have equal access to a healthy environment. Along with our adviser, Dr. Peter Buck, we are doing our part to work for their rights.
Environmental Justice Map of Pennsylvania
We have initiated a project that will display how the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is upholding the above promise in its Constitution. Using mapping software, United State Census Data, and other tools, we are creating an Environmental Justice Map of Pennsylvania. It will be an accessible and informational tool that highlights environmental injustices across the state. From lead exposure to proximity to toxic waste, from rural to urban areas, this map will identify the environmental hazards across the state and their cumulative health impacts on different populations. Supplementary to the map, we will provide a report on its implications for public policy as well as guidance for educators.
Partnerships are key…
To achieve our goals, we are taking the steps to make it excellent. To date, we have read groundbreaking research on environmental justice by Dr. Robert Bullard, this year’s Colloquium on the Environment speaker (postponed because of COVID-19). We have consulted and are coordinating with experts at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Environmental Protection Agency, researchers at Penn State and other universities, as well as other state agencies. As we develop this tool, others in Pennsylvania are initiating a stakeholder engagement process to learn more about community needs. Through our coordinated activities, we want to ensure that all people are recognized, represented, and involved in decision-making to maintain a healthy environment for all the people.