Environmental Justice : Open Choices and Inclusivity Tamara Steger, Ph.D. Environmental and Social Justice Action Research Group Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy Central European University Budapest, Hungary
Environmental Justice Ever yday
Choices made along the way at each moment.
Evolution of choice frameworks in a multi-level governance context.
Open s ystem of exchanges across social, political and economic spheres.
Conditions of Exclusion and Inclusion: Poverty, Racism, and Sexism
Poverty is not about needs and wants, but “…the condition of not being allowed to enter the system of exchanges.”
Debate on defining poverty
Absolute: subsistence notion of needs (e.g., you cannot afford to eat); severe deprivation (eg. starvation and malnutrition);material-oriented
Relative: lack resources for or excluded from participating in ordinary living patterns and activities; relational/symbolic
Deprivation of well-being; denial of choices ; functionings (being) and capabilities (doing); income is a means to an end; victim >>active participant (Sen, 1990; UNDP, 1997).
Racism: Some definitions
...any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life. (Part 1 of Article 1 of the U.N. International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination)
A belief or ideology that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially to distinguish it as being either superior or inferior to another race or races (Oxford English Dictionary)
Is any action or attitude, conscious or unconscious, that subordinates an individual or group based on skin colour or race. It can be enacted individually or institutionally. (US Civil Rights Commission)
Roma in Central and Eastern European communities are more likely than majority community members to:
Be exposed to environmental harms including pollution and flood risk
Have less access to water and sewage treatment (Making the Case for Environmental Justice in Central and Eastern Europe, 2007)
Sexism and Exclusion of Children
Women and children tend to suffer the most poverty and exclusion .
All over the world, women are more likely to be:
More likely to be classified as “in poverty.”
Be exposed to environmental health problems and issues.
Poor women in traditional societies tend more to home and family life which exposes them and their children to pollution (indoor air pollution, scavenging risks, etc.).
40% of the global burden of disease attributed to environmental risk factors falls on children under 5 years of age, who account for only 10% of the world population (see HEAL).
People outside of the dominant sphere of social exchange due to racism, classism, and/or sexism and exclusion of children tend to:
have less access to clean water, sanitation, and waste collection;
be at greater risk of being exposed to environmental hazards than majority and economically well-off communities; and
suffer from lack of access to information, participation in decision making, and justice in matters related to the environment.
Poverty and inequality are thus manifested in the distribution of environmental benefits like water and waste treatment facilities,
And harms like pollution,
Environmental Justice: Open Choices and Inclusivity
A condition of environmental justice exists when environmental risks, hazards, investments and benefits are equally distributed without direct or indirect discrimination at all jurisdictional levels and when access to environmental investments, benefits, and natural resources are equally distributed; and when access to information, participation in decision-making, and access to justice in environment-related matters are enjoyed by all. Coalition for Environmental Justice
Improving choices and inclusivity improves life for everyone
Equality, for example, makes “economies grow faster, the poor move more quickly out of poverty and the well-being of men, women, and children is enhanced” (World Bank, 2002)
Better circumstances for women increases the effectiveness of environmental policies (S. Buckingham et al.2005)
There can be serious health consequences if you don’t respect and pay attention to human rights. (Mann J., Gostin L., Lazzarini, Z., and Fineberg HV, “Health and Human Rights,” Health and Human Rights: An International Journal. Vol. 1, No 1, 1994.)
An Opportunity for Environmental Justice Case Study: Fakulteta settlement and waste management in Sofia, Bulgaria
Waste Crisis in Sofia
Out of landfill space.
Bailing waste, but running out of temporary storage space.
Social conflict: People near city’s only landfill “Suhodol” blocked the road to prevent municipal waste trucks from transporting more waste to the site which was long overdue to be shut down. This left Sofia buried in garbage for a week.
“Suhodol” capacity was exhausted in June 2005 and depositing ceased in September 2005 …temporarily. (Source: Iskra Stoykova, Romani Baht Foundation, Bulgaria, 2006)
Sudohol reopened 2006.
Bulgaria accession to the EU: January 2007; Infringement procedure launched by EC (impacts on human health and the environment).
Community funding was made available to upgrade Sofia’s waste infrastructure.
Bailment has been reduced to approx. 60% (Focus Information Agency, 20 November 2009)
November 2009: EU Commission pursued court action against Bulgaria for failing to implement EU waste law, particularly for not having adequate waste disposal system and facilities in Sofia.
February 2010: Sofia submitted an Integrated Waste Management System project
Choices about Waste
Companies in the more prosperous regions of the European Union are outsourcing waste disposal to municipalities in poorer countries in Central and Eastern Europe. 
One German firm infamously exported hazardous waste to Albania in barrels labeled “humanitarian aid.” 
 Harper, Krista. 2006. Wild Capitalism: Environmental Activists and Postsocialist Political Ecology in Hungary. Boulder: CO: East European Monographs.
 Cleary, Maura. 1997. “TED Case Study #359: Industrial Waste in Albania.” TED Case Studies, Volume 7, Number 1, January, 1997. Accessed online at http://www.american.edu/TED/class/all.htm on 16 February 2007.
Environmental justice crisis in Sofia
Fakulteta Roma Settlement:
Lack of waste collection infrastructure;
Old, poorly maintained water supply system and primitive sewerage system;
Lack of roads and telecommunications; and
Lack of sufficient electricity;
In Glavova mahala :
Only one water tap for 200 families
Photo by Keti Medarova
Fakulteta Settlement, Sofia, Bulgaria
Informal Waste Recycling
Approx. 10,000 people in Sofia (mostly Roma) informally collect and transport materials from household waste.
Materials include paper, glass, metal, plastics and wood.
As a cooperative, this collection and transportation of recyclable household waste could reduce stored (baled) waste by 30%.
Cooperatives for urban recycling
Cooperatives for informal urban recycling based on grassroots development have proven successful in other countries including Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, the Philippines, and India.
Such recycling cooperatives improve the environment, the standard of living of otherwise poor people, and enhance the municipal economy.
Inclusivity in the system of exchanges
Ensures fair access to clean water and sanitation, and equal protection from harmful pollutants.
Prevents community breakdown and conflict by securing fair living conditions for everyone.
Alleviates discrimination, racism, and prejudice that otherwise can destroy a community's well being and capacity to develop in a sustainable way.
Creates a stronger market economy by generating a foundation of trust and stability which attracts investment and promotes fair exchange.
Promotes good, honest politicians who demonstrate a higher concern for the public interest.