On August 20th, the Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento collaborated with Sacramento Area Congregations Together, an organization focused on encouraging and supporting members in advocating for change in economic and racial injustice issues, to host a conference to encourage people to advocate for environmental justice.

Environmental justice is a type of socioeconomic discrimination where corporations and companies build “less desireable” infrastructure in areas that are lower income and have a high minority population opposed to richer areas that are predominantly populated by white people.

Environmental injustice is often seen in older, pooper neighborhoods. In more affluent communities, residents live with higher property value, making it more expensive for a transplant to locate there, at least in comparison to a lower income neighborhood, where residents pay less and the property value is drastically lower

It is expected that any household would prefer living in a less-polluted neighborhood, regardless of income. Poorer families often find themselves in a position where they have to decide between their willingness to pay more to live in a less polluted area and their desire to have lower rent.

“Not having a healthy thriving community actually impacts every aspect of your life,” said Gabby Trejo, Associate Director of Sacramento ACT. “Drive by a community that has a lack of affordable housing or lack of housing and you’re able to actually see it with your own eyes. But when we’re talking about water or we’re talking about air pollution, we’re not necessarily able to see it and that’s when it becomes a little bit harder to see how that impacts other areas of their lives.”

According to a paper released by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2010, studies conducted in 1995 found that “housing values grew less rapidly in locations where there was at least one waste site, and the minority population increased more rapidly in these locations than it did in other neighborhoods,” and “both white and rich households tended to leave neighborhoods after the siting of a dirty plant, while minorities tended to move into these more polluted areas.”

“I feel very hopeful that folks that showed up today…that really have a hunger for making a difference [will] have a real impact on the way Sacramento really looks at environmental justice,” Trejo said after the conference. “We’re going to have a committee have a  meeting next month so we actually start digging deeper into what our work is really going to look like.”

Anyone who is interested in advocating or has questions about environmental justice in Sacramento can contact Gabby Trejo @ Gabby@SacACT.org for more information.