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Children: The Common Denominator in Environmental Injustice

Throughout class there have been several situations presented to us which pose significant threats and deny many basic rights of many people all over the world, such as the forced Warren County landfill, the ignoring of East New Orleans during recovery after hurricane Katrina, and others. However, the one undeniable fact that seems to recur throughout these issues is the undermining of how these problems affect the youth. In Benjamin J. George’s article titled: “Does America Hate its Children?” this theme is striking in exploring the raw ignorance of child health and safety when it comes to even the most basic of their rights. As discussed in class, I agree with the stance that in order to account for and treat the disparities in environmental hazards and benefits, we must take different approaches for different people; there can never be a simple blanket rule when it comes to environmental justice. Even more so then, there has to be a special emphasis on protecting all children.

I think the most telling aspect of America “hating” our children in this article was the recent announcement stated that Obamacare would consider individuals eligible for government subsidies from the mandatory insurance program based solely on their individual income, not on what the family / guardians make. Essentially, children are eligible for subsidized health insurance if their income meets a certain benchmark (which the significant majority of children do not have). By no means am I pushing a particular political agenda, but it is undeniable that having such an exclusive and widespread reform in healthcare is alarming to our future people’s health and safety, to say the least. Ineffectiveness to carry out what the plan was originally intended for is the biggest irony of all. The reason I bring up Obamacare as the biggest threat to environmental justice of children from this article is because it bars complete recognition and participation of poorer children, which happen to be the most vulnerable of all people.

The apparent and ubiquitous nature of ignoring children in so many environmental regulations and treatments stretches all the way to the realm of agriculture as well. Children twelve years of age and older are legally allowed to work the farms under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA), but it includes no regulation of pesticide use around children. The regulation only provides mandatory regulation for those that weigh 154 pounds plus, which hardly comprises any twelve year olds. Therefore, there are a great number of children suffering from exposure to toxic chemicals, pesticides, and fertilizers (and not to mention the physical risk of farming equipment), which have led to extensive cases of skin rashes, hindered sexual reproduction, broken bones, and cancer.

At first I vehemently disagreed with the premise of the article, simply because the thought of a country, let alone America, hating its children is unthinkable. However, as the multiple examples of injustice to children came up, I began to see the bigger point at what the author was getting at. The vested interests of those in control so often ignore the problems, the opinions, and simply the voices of those most vulnerable in society, children. As related to a broader theme in our class, this article exemplifies that denying children means denying those future people the initial chance at participation and thus denying sustainability of any kind. So my thoughts summed up around these types of children affected is this: when will America (and the world for that matter) recognize and integrate ALL children into the culture of policy-making as it ties into the rural and urban environmental justice framework?

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