It is often Chicago’s Latino and Black communities that are most affected by industrial pollution. This is more evident than anywhere else in Chicago, especially on the Southeast Side.
Environmental justice advocates fought General Iron, a metal shredding company, for two years and won when the city refused to permit the company to enter their neighborhood. These communities still have a legacy of industrial abuses that has led to higher rates of asthma, lead poisoning, and other health problems.
Co-founding of Isis BazalduaBridges//Puentes Justice Collective of the SoutheastIn 2020, she joined the coalition to defeat General Iron. She stated that both her community’s and the company’s history inspired her activism.
General Iron was known for having two explosions of a metal shredder. They were planning to bring it to the surface. [in]Bazaldua stated that the community could not be transferred to another area or increase industrial pollution. We had a battle withpetcoke and then a battle with S in the Southeast Side community. H. Belland, then General Iron, all in the space of two decades.
Eduardo Flores, a Member ofClean Power Lake CountyAlthough industrial abuses are often seen as a problem within cities, pollution in Illinois is not limited to those areas.
Many of the issues that affect communities of color in Chicago have an impact on communities across the state. Waukegan is where we focus our most of our work. It’s not just Chicago. Flores stated that sometimes it can be difficult because we have to make sure that we are speaking up so that they are not forgotten. The Waukegan north Chicago Zion neighborhood in Lake County is where pollution is most prevalent. The rest of the county is more predominantly white. This is why we can see how communities of color, Hispanics and Blacks are being affected by all of these issues in the Waukegan region.
Cheryl Johnson is executive director ofPeople for Community Recovery, continues the work of her motherHazel JohnsonIn the South Side Altgeld Gardens community, began demanding that industrial pollution be held accountable. Hazel Johnson is often referred to as the mother of environmental justice because of the work she started in the 1980s. Cheryl Johnson stated that although there has been progress, there is still much to do.
There have been many policies, but they are not being enforced. The biggest challenge we face as a local community is enforcement and the ability to know what’s happening in your area. Johnson said that industry entering the area has the right to redress. We have been polluted since the 1860s. I live in public housing. My income is low and my community is apolitical. This is what determines if I will live in a healthy area. These are the inequalities and biases that many of the cities and governments in this city are responsible for the environmental harms we all experience every day of our lives. This is not fair.
Environmental justice is often portrayed in terms of a battle between economic growth and the environment. However, Naomi Davis, founder, CEO ofBlacks in GreenAccording to, there are ways industry can live in harmony with communities.
Davis stated that we have been working at the intersection between environment and economy since our birth 15 years ago. This new green economy is characterized by an aging infrastructure, pollution, and lack of jobs. It means that there are many good-paying green jobs that Black communities can cultivate within our sustainable square mile. We believe that Black communities should have the ability to walk to work, shop, learn, and play, and that they can walk to school.
Davis sees investments in green economy and jobs as a positive move, but also recognizes the need for the community to reap the benefits.
Weatherization is essential to being able to use some of these energy efficiency technologies. However, clean energy technologies cannot have any of this with a leaky envelope. Where are the roofers! Where are the tuck pointers and air duct sealers? All of these are a source of workers and enterprises we are cultivating because it is possible and because we have to. We deserve the funding, the funding, and the trillions that are circling to us must be drawn down by the States and distributed equitably. Equitably in these terms refers to prioritizing Black or brown communities.
Isis Bazdua stated that it was not enough to allow new industrial pollution. The companies responsible must also take responsibility for the destruction of the past.
We have land on our southeast side that is unsafe, unusable, and inhabitable. [in the air]Bazaldua said that companies must find a way for these hazardous areas to be cleaned up.
Eduardo Flores places the responsibility of holding the industry accountable squarely on the shoulders elected officials.
These people are represented by the people we elect into office. Flores said that they should stand with the committee members and fight against these corporations who will, if not stopped will literally try as hard as they can to exploit. This is why these corporations are able to come in and make their money. Once they stop making money or they become unprofitable, they leave our communities in the dust. The government should step in to enforce these laws and protect our communities.