By Jane Marsh
Environmental justice, a term brought to life in the 1950s, enforces policies and advocates for justice for all people regardless of their ethnic origins or social status when it comes to environmental factors that affect them.
At its core environmental justice seeks to make the environment safer, cleaner and more sustainable for everyone and is especially concerned with lower-income and vulnerable communities that are more at risk of exposure to harmful chemicals in their surroundings.
The point of environmental justice is to bring power back to the people affected the most.
First, you need to bring awareness to the issue and give a voice to those aggected by it. This is important as private corporations and government agecies often profit from polluting the environment of vulnerable communities. They might pump hazardous materials into the air people breathe or into the water they drink.
At the same time protective policies are often lacking or remain unenforced such as the Safe Water Drinking Act in the United States. As a result, the access of low-income communities to clean water isn’t the same as in more prosperous neighborhoods.
Environmental justice aims to make the environment cleaner inclusively by fighting these issues collectively and stopping government discrimination.
How science can help
Science has the potential to save the environment across the board, benefitting disadvantaged communities in the process.
Bioeconomy and a circular economy, for instance, can help provide people and businesses reuse materials considered waste. Biotechnology can in turn create crops resistant to climate change and varieties of rice resistant to flooding.
The key is to employ scientific progress to adapt to change and solve problems. By using science to combat environmental issues, we can fight pollution and clean up polluted areas, helping affected communities in the process.
Innovative technology and scientific research can lessen the impacts of climate change while science also helps us monitor the factors that contribute to environmental harm in the first place.
Take modular spectroscopy, which enables us to gain real-world samples from our surroundings. As science advances, spectroscopy is becoming more efficient. Fiber optic spectrometers can be used to measure exhaust emissions and help us clean up the air.
Spectroscopy is also used in a variety of ways to test atmospheric conditions through careful analysis. Fibers and probes can now be customized to analyze samples with more specificity and scientists use these tools to collect and interpret data.
NASA is working to identify earth science data that can be combined with social science data to enable transdisciplinary science. These insights can be used to bring awareness to environmental justice challenges and as a resource to exchange and study knowledge.
NASA is incorporating and pooling its resources to create an open science community that is all-inclusive. The agency’s sensors on aircraft and satellites help test and monitor the earth’s atmosphere. These sensors provide data that pertain to all of earth’s natural elements like land, oceans and life.
NASA’s Applied Science Program helps to identify challenges in the environment and aids in assisting efforts in all communities around the world, including vulnerable and disproportionately affected ones.
Environmental injustice areas are being more recognized through these efforts and science is becoming a more and more powerful tool that provides us with the means to tackle environmental justice challenges on all fronts.
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