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Environmental Racism: How Racist Capitalism is Impacting Our Planet and People

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It all started when capitalism emerged and a pattern revealed itself, one which was ignited from deeply rooted racism, and fuels the cycle of social injustice.

Dominik Dancs [9]

It stems from a racial-based industrial system

The war ended and the golden industrial era began, where capitalism is easier than ever. Advertisement and shipping are accessible to almost every corner of the globe, buildings are getting higher, and factories are becoming widespread.

As demand increased, companies had an idea to find cheaper, mass production methods and raise profits. Factories were being built thousands of miles away from the company’s headquarters, allowing them to recruit labor consisting of poorer citizens. These people are desperate enough to ignore ethical standards and regulations for only minimum wage income.

On top of wage and safety concerns, environmental regulations are also easily ignored in remote areas of underdeveloped countries. In fact, about 80% of children who live in Guiyu, China, suffer from lead poisoning. The area has become one of the worst electronic waste sites in the world, most of which comes from the US [1]. With these cases, their standard of living is greatly diminished and their health is constantly threatened by the environmental implications.

It has been a common pattern that these industrial hubs are based in developed countries in which they exploit underdeveloped regions throughout Asia and Africa. The owners are predominantly white, affecting the lives of their workers consisting of various of people of color from miles away.

Masking it with the idea that they are helping to develop their cities, those buildings only pollute the city even more. Eventually, its waste and carbon footprint can be found all around the world, impacting not only marginalized people within the radius of 10 km but also those thousand miles away.


It ends the hopes and lives of marginalized people

Climate change threatens all human beings regardless of the color of their skin, the amount of money on their bank account, and the neighbourhood they are living in. However, marginalized people are being put on the forefront of climate change.

1. Plastic waste all over the ocean lessens fishermen’s income

Plastic waste caught on fishermen net on the beach
Fishermen has been catching trashes since fishes couldn't live in toxic shallow water anymore.

Angela Compagnone [10]

Poorly managed non-recyclable waste poses a great danger to every single living thing, from corals to humans. Plastics stay for hundreds of years in places we might never see.

Fishermen in Marunda Kepu, Jakarta have no fish to catch ever since plastic took over the ocean. Plastics float at first, but would eventually sink until it reached the seafloor. With the help of gentle waves, the beach sands wash over the garbages, hiding them under the sands. The continual process made the ocean more shallow each day and fishes could not live in that kind of environment [2].

2. Extreme temperature threatens homeless people’s lives directly

A homeless person sitting in sidewalk
Be it -30 or 30+ celcius degree, the extreme living condition leave homeless people on the verge of dying.

Jonathan Kho [11]

These people barely used electricity and private transportations that contributed to the rise of global temperature, but they experienced it directly.

From 2016 to 2018, when the heatwave hit Phoenix, United States, 42 homeless people died. The other victims were outdoor workers and people who did not have adequate air conditioning, a seemingly marginalized community without financial stability [3].

On the other hand, when it was - 30 degrees celsius in Russia, a homeless man named Alexei had to sleep under a factory heater’s pipe [4]. The extreme condition pushed him to find a similarly extreme solution.

3. Deforestation robs indigenous people’s rights of their own land

Annie Spratt [12]

Indigenous communities were the first circle of humans to live in the forest. Corrupt industries who blindly took their lands and did not follow deforestation regulations to revitalize it, they are the one to suffer.

In 2018, there were 410 land conflicts affecting 87.658 residences of Papua’s indigenous people. They have lost their own rights to palm oil industries and factories alike. Shifting the map to Kalimantan Barat and Sumatra, Dayak Iban and Anak Dalam tribes have to find other source of income [5]. The trees that used to be the main material for their handmade accessories were gone over palm oil trees.

4. Flooding ruins poor people’s houses

Tuan Nguyen [13]

The center of cities belongs to households with financial stability while the rest have to settle somewhere else. However, other than poorly managed irrigation and waste systems, strong monsoon and other wet seasons affect houses in the slum rather than urban areas.

This reality stems from the issue where office buildings and fancy apartments were built on top of supposedly green areas. Only 20% of the land could be used for buildings, but at the moment 80% of it is ironically the building instead. As a proof, the vast office complex of TB Simatupang street in Jakarta is currently one of the areas that could have been soaking all the water [6].

Fancy apartments and houses have a lesser chance to be affected as well. Earlier this year, at least 8 houses were completely destroyed by strong gushes of wind and rain just on the corner of East Jakarta. It happened because of a monsoon that was evidently stronger than they have encountered for the last 3 years [7].

5. Drought makes it hard for farmers to harvest their crop

Artem Beliaikin [14]

It takes one month for farmers to gain profits, but climate change only buffers their only source of income for another month. Indonesia has a regular drought season and even more when the temperature rises.

In late 2019, around 9.676 hectares of rice field in Central Java failed to be cropped. The supposedly 8 tons of rice per hectare could be sold for the farmers to live by. Some of the fields near the water bank succeeded to be watered, but the rest who were too far away from it did not have much hope [8].

These are all only some of many unfortunate events that marginalized and people of color had to go through. As long as the racist industry is still making high number, it's going to be even more worse.


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Editor: Christopher Randy



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