Hesperian Health Guides

Chapter 4: Environmental Rights and Justice

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HealthWiki > A Community Guide to Environmental Health > Chapter 4: Environmental Rights and Justice

 Men, women and children cover their noses and mouths as they run down a street away from a factory from which gas is wafting.

Every person in every community has the right to health, and to a safe and healthy environment. Unfortunately, these rights are often not respected. Many people suffer from serious health problems caused by a scarcity of basic necessities and an excess of harmful substances. The most vulnerable people are those who have low status because of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, class, caste, poverty, or for other reasons. They usually suffer first, and worst.

The struggle to live in a healthy, safe, productive, and enjoyable environment by communities whose rights are not well respected by people in power is sometimes called the struggle for environmental justice.

There are many stories from around the world of communities suffering unjustly from environmental health disasters, just as many stories can be told of people organizing to protect and defend their right to health and environmental justice in the wake of these disasters. This chapter tells such a story.