Environmental Justice

A brief overview

North Carolina is considered the birthplace of the environmental justice (EJ) movement. While our state has seen some progress, North Carolina still has disparities in public health and environmental quality. NC Conservation Network works to end those disparities by addressing ongoing threats to communities, such as animal waste management, coal ash disposal, and natural gas infrastructure.

Disparate impacts

A 2019 report from NC Conservation Network provides insight into how some of these disparities surface. The US EPA’s Environmental Justice Screen, an online mapping tool, includes a demographic index that ranks all of North Carolina’s 6,000+ census blocks based on low-income and minority race populations. The distribution of these “environmental justice” tracts has a mild positive correlation with proximity to sources of respiratory toxics, heavy vehicle traffic, and sites handling storage and disposal of hazardous wastes, implying that residents of these tracts are somewhat more likely to be exposed to these risks than the general population. In addition, a 2014 US EPA analysis found that people of color in North Carolina are more likely than whites to live within a mile of a facility that releases toxic pollution into the local environment. Finally, the distribution of industrial swine farming overlaps EJ tracts in the southern Coastal Plain.

More about equity

NC Conservation Network’s work on environmental justice issues aligns directly with our broader organizational commitment to advancing equity in our state.

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