ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE CAUCUS
Senator Duckworth is a founding member of the Senate’s first-ever Environmental Justice Caucus, along with Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tom Carper (D-DE). The caucus calls Congress’ attention to the many environmental justice issues affecting our nation. For too long, and far too often, communities of color and low income communities have borne the brunt of our environmental burdens, which can lead to public health, pollution and economic injustices. Senator Duckworth announced the creation of the Environmental Justice Caucus this past Earth Day. Since then, the caucus has focused on raising awareness, advancing legislation, conducting oversight and “speaking loudly for communities that for far too long have been disproportionately impacted by polluting industries.
To help communities advocate for themselves with the federal government, the caucus will provide expertise and assistance, generate legislation and organize hearings and events. It will also coordinate with the House Environmental Justice Task Force, which consists of members from the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Asian Pacific American Caucus.
“Every American has the right to breathe safe air, drink clean water and live on uncontaminated land regardless of their zip code, the size of their wallet and the color of their skin. However, too often that is not the case, especially for low income communities and people of color. That’s why I’m proud to start the Senate’s first Environmental Justice Caucus to raise awareness of the fact that communities of color face public health challenges at alarming rates while too many in power look the other way. Together, we will be strong advocates for every person’s right to a safe, healthy and livable environment.”
Environmental justice activism has deep roots in the state of Illinois. Hazel Johnson, an activist from the Southside of Chicago, is often considered ‘the mother of the environmental justice movement.’ Illinois unfortunately also has a number of environmental justice challenges. Black kids on the South and West Sides of Chicago are eight times more likely to die from asthma than white children. Additionally, asthma rates among African American adults in Chicago are nearly 75% higher than among white adults. Many of the worst pollution issues in the city, such as the high rates of manganese emissions on the Southeast Side, disproportionately impact communities of color — and communities of color in cities like Cairo are disproportionately at risk of lead poisoning.
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