The Global South And The Burden Of Environmental Racism’s Past And Future

Wilks, Lexington

Many people associate urban cityscapes with issues such as air pollution and industrial waste, but there are more insidious systems of environmental destruction that impact physical, social, and political worlds far beyond hyperlocal contexts. These worlds are all ruled by the pervasive and invisible structures of inequality and prejudice within society due to shared historical and contemporary experiences. Racism as an institution is often defined as “prejudice plus power”; that is to say, the holders of institutional power are able to leverage this in order to promote a policy of frameworks that puts people of colour at a disadvantage, globally. These frameworks affect every facet of life: from the food eaten, to educational achievement, to leisure activities undertaken, to occupational attainment. And it all starts with the environment, in our relationship with the space we live in through the effects of planning, policy, and pollution.

While the impact of racism and its socio-economic outcomes are more commonly understood in terms of pay disparities, unequal policing, and issues such as un- and underemployment, we are less versed in studying racism through an environmental lens. In this new light, we must begin to address the role played by the Global North in subjugating the nations of the Global South through historical frameworks that are dependent upon the (over)use of natural resources, impact of climate change and its political exploitation, as well as the many modes of destabilization that resulted from colonization.