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Environmental Inequality Mapping Project

Throughout human history, people’s relationship to nature has always been influenced by power. While some groups of people have the authority to gain access to nature, to transform it into natural resources for profit, and then to distance themselves from the negative consequences of such use, other groups do not.

On this website students have mapped these inequalities by choosing historical sites where environmental discrimination took place. For each of these sites, students have uploaded primary sources, images, scientific data, oral interviews, video stories, and final research projects that analyze environmental inequality at their site during the post-World War II era. The result is an interactive environmental justice map of the Newark-New York City region and beyond.

To explore this history you can use the menu bar above to see student work on specific sites, click on the pins in the map, or use the “Search” window below to cross-reference key words across all of the sites.

Prof. Neil M. Maher

Research Title:

Warren County 2.0: The Unequal Hazardous Waste Distribution In Northeast Detroit 

Author Biography:

I am Jui-Cheng Ryan Wu, a fifth year student in NJIT school of architecture. I spent the past several years living in Newark, witnessing the local residents fighting back against environmental injustice cases such as the Passaic Superfund Site and the Led water crisis. It raises my interest in Knowing more about the city of Detroit, a place that I have been hearing of since little, desperately facing all kinds of side effects brought by the rise and fall of its heavy industries.

Site Description:

Since the mid-19th century, Detroit has been a center of industries and commerce of Michigan, it’s significance especially escalated as the Automobile industry took off in the 1910s. Environmental contamination comes with the thriving industries continuing to the current era. One shocking news in January of 2020 catches the attention of the less wealthy societies, as the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) approved U.S. Ecology’s permit to increase its storage of toxic waste nine folds. In detail, The plant has permission to treat 144,000 gallons of toxic and industrial chemicals per day, including arsenic, cyanide, mercury, PCBs, and PFAS, that are dumped into the city’s sewer system. It soon raises the attention of the public on environmental racism. According to the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, 65% of people living within three miles of a commercial hazardous waste site in Michigan are people of color, despite being only 25% of the state’s population; and the lack of representation of the local community give manufacturers an easy pass for disposal. Activists on environmental justice joined with locals and quickly started the negotiation with the EGLE. As this is still an ongoing crisis. I would like to look into the inequality of power behind the scene, and what resisting action has been taken that gives pressure to the officials especially in this case. Since environmental injustice is not a new subject for the area, I also want to understand what the local organizations have done addressing the inequality before this clash. The outcome could serve as a reference for the people across the States that are urgently facing similar environmental problems.

US ecology, Hazardous Waste Disposal, Detroit, Inequality