Over the past few decades we have seen a gradual increase in the number of writers writing about issues related to environmental concerns. So far poets, fiction writers and nature writers from different communities were either ignored or misread when they tried to raise their voice for environmental justice concerns. All that is changing now as we see an increasing number of writers exploring issues related to environmental racism and environmental justice through their works.
According to Adamson, these authors, who are now gaining popularity among the ecocritics and environmentalists, require a different kind of reading than established ecocriticism. The term Adamson uses to describe this difference is Environmental Justice. The term justice helps the environmental justice activists in distinguishing themselves from the white, middle class environmental organizations, and also to establish a connection between social justice issues like race, gender, class, etc. and environmental problems (Tarter 60). In Postcolonial Ecologies: Literatures of the Environment (2011), Deloughrey and Handley raise the question as to why the environmental concerns are often considered as distinct from postcolonial ones (14). Similarities can be seen between them as both are based on the concept of ‘othering’. While post-colonialism tends to be people-centred, ecocriticism is nature-centred in its orientation. Although environmental justice is central to ecocriticism but the method of practicing it is still not well established.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines Environmental Justice as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. EPA has this goal for all communities and persons across the United States. It will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and have equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.
The Environmental Justice movement challenges the traditional environmental policy which has so far benefited only the affluent sections of the society. It is not just an environmental movement or a civil rights movement, but also a women’s movement, and according to Robert R.M. Verchick, a feminist movement as well (63). Environmental justice activists, particularly women and people of color, bring previously unheard “bottom-up” perspectives to environmental issues (66). One such writer who has given the impetus to the modern environmental movement is Rachel Carson who’s Silent Spring (1962) led to a new environmental awareness and a vision that translated into tangible political action. A single
woman, she took up the challenge of facing industrial forces in the world. She firmly believed that people would protect only what...