The fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people in environmental risks and benefits, regardless of race, color, national origin, and income. This minimal definition is often expanded to include more robust conceptions of the sacredness of Mother Earth, ecological integrity, rights to participate in all relevant settings, local knowledge and street science, and other normative and policy goals.

Fast Facts:

The National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) was established as a federal advisory committee in October 1993. As a multi-stakeholder body, it represents leaders from EJ organizations and tribal groups, as well as representatives from other institutions (business, academia, state, local, and tribal governments, and other environmental groups).


Pre-1980s: many struggles of working class people, racial minorities, and indigenous peoples over environmental harms and ecological degradation in communities, as well as workplaces. Deep patterns built into institutional and cultural systems.

1980s: protests in Warren County, North Carolina, brought environmental injustice into the larger public discourse. Important reports were issued by the U.S. General Accountability Office (1983), at the behest of the Congressional Black Caucus, and especially by the Commission on Racial Justice of the United Church of Christ (1987).

1990s and beyond: the first EJ summit convenes in 1991, which develops core Principles of Environmental Justice for the movement. The EPA (under George H.W. Bush, 1989-1993) begins to acknowledge and research “environmental equity.” The frame of “environmental justice” is adopted early in the Clinton administration (1993-2001).

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