Diversityin Environmental Justice
Diversityis perceivable as a myriad of individual differences and connectionsthat exist among people (Washington, 2008, p. 3). In essence,diversity encapsulates various human characteristics, for instance,age, race, national origin, creed, sexual orientation, and ethnicity.Thus, considering the before-mentioned, diversity can be viewed asthe attribute of being different (Parvis, 2005, p. 13). The conceptof diversity delineates the capacity of people being able to worktogether and live without creating conflict. The majority of problemsgenerate from a lack of awareness and understanding about differentcultures or perceptions about particular events. For example, inAmerica, after the September 11, 2001, attack, the attention wasfocused on terrorism, the work and lives of the Muslims in the US,and the Middle East. Subsequent studies revealed that if America hadfocused on understanding the underpinnings of other cultures, the9/11 attack might have been averted. The same understanding can beapplied to issues centering on the environment. The pros and cons ofconstruction versus deforestation in society have led to thedevelopment of controversial debates regarding the practice that ismore favorable to the well-being of the human race.
Diversityencompasses respect and acceptance (Patrick & Kumar, 2012, p. 1).The understanding that all persons have unique viewpoints ondifferent issues is critical to the development of an in-depthunderstanding of diversity. These viewpoints may be premised alongthe line of race, gender, sexual orientation, and ethnicity.Diversity involves the examination of these dissimilarities in amanner that is positive, safe, progressive. Simply put, diversitymeans extending beyond mere tolerance to celebrating and embracingthe rich dimensions of diversity that are inherent in all persons.Thus, the realization that culture, humanity, and the naturalenvironment are interdependent sets the precedence for practices thatincorporate diversity. Also, issues such as respecting experiencesand qualities that differ from one`s belief and creating alliances toeradicate all types of discrimination are usually considered whenconceptualizing diversity.
Consideringthe above, Environmental Justice can be viewed as the fair handlingand meaningful envelopment of all persons regardless of color, race,age, nationality, or income in matters concerning the development,execution, and enforcement of environmental regulations, laws, andpolicies (US Environmental Protection Agency, 2016). Simply put, nogroup of individuals is accorded a disproportionate portion of theadverse environmental results that accrue from governmental,industrial, and commercial actions. Thus, meaningful participationentails giving people the chance to take part in decisions regardingthe activities that may impact their environment, the importance ofpublic opinion in regulating the decision of the regulatory agency,and the inclusion (by decision-makers) of the parties affected indetermining the final decision. Environmental Justice can, therefore,be viewed in terms of people`s ability to enjoy the same level ofprotection from health and environmental hazards, in addition to anequal right of entry to the decision-making process, to bring to bearan environment that enables people to work, live, and learn.
Studiesreveal that half of all tropical forests that have existed in thepast are still in existence (Chakravarty, Ghosh, Suresh, Dey, &Shukla, 2012, p. 6). The struggle to preserve these natural habitatsis, however, still a significant concern. To develop a solution forthis problem, a clear delineation between the causes of deforestationand its agents is critical. Agents include ranchers, commercialfarmers, infrastructure developers, and loggers. The causes,conversely, are perceivable as the driving forces that prompt theagents to clear the forests. These causes, when perceived through thelens of different observers, have various pros and cons.
Tobegin with, deforestation provides more land for human preservation(Chakravarty, Ghosh, Suresh, Dey, & Shukla, 2012, p. 7). Tropicalforests have been advanced as being among the last boundaries in thehunt for subsistence land for the marginalized communities. Researchindicates that millions of people who live in the forests can survivewith less than a dollar per day a third of a billion of thispopulation is estimated to come from foreign lands. These forestsoffer numerous families with food and basic needs such as clothing,which are gathered from the profits derived from the trade ofagricultural items.
Also,the expansion of towns and cities is dependent upon the availabilityof land, where infrastructure can be established to support thegrowing population (Chakravarty, Ghosh, Suresh, Dey, & Shukla,2012, p. 9). To make land available, humans resort to clearingforests. Tropical forests are usually a primary target forinfrastructure development. Infrastructure may be in the form ofhydropower dam construction, groundwork for oil exploitation, loggingconcessions, and road construction in pristine regions. In essence,the building of railways, roads, airports, and bridges, paves a wayfor development and results in a significant increase in the numberof people near forest frontiers. Whether the government supports thedevelopment of infrastructure in forest areas or not, the partiesinvolved usually colonize forests by utilizing new roads or loggingtrails to gain access to forests for subsistence purposes. Inaddition, activities such as mining promote development and attractpopulation growth, which, by extension, exacerbates deforestation.Nonetheless, in spite of the numerous benefits that deforestation mayaccrue to the human race, the associated cons cannot be overlooked.
Agriculturehas been forwarded as one of the most significant causes ofdeforestation (Chakravarty, Ghosh, Suresh, Dey, & Shukla, 2012,p. 9). Approximately 60% of the clearing activities in tropicalforests are attributable to agriculture. People’s movement to newforest frontiers increases the rate of deforestation substantially.Tree crops and rubber, for instance, have been proven to play apivotal role in increasing the rate of deforestation in Indonesia,when compared to subsistence-oriented shifting cultivation. As aconsequence, problems such as decreases in biodiversity, habitat lossand conflicts arise (2012, p. 16). Degradation and fragmentationhinder biodiversity, prompting the migration of species. Thismovement may trigger animal-human conflict. Such cases have beenreported in countries such as India, where the high levels offragmentation have led to human-elephant conflict. This conflict hasnot only resulted in the loss of crops but also elephant and humanlives.
Deforestationalso results in the disruption of the global water cycle(Chakravarty, Ghosh, Suresh, Dey, & Shukla, 2012, p. 16). Thedevelopment of infrastructure leads to the removal of part of theforest. Watersheds, as a result of deforestation, become incapable ofsustaining and regulating water flow from streams and rivers. As aresult, issues such as downstream flooding arise, causing disaster inthe affected areas. Downstream flow also results in soil erosion,which, eventually, causes silting in dams, lakes, and water courses.The long-term effects of deforestation are severe. For example, theleaf litter on forest floors enables forests to accommodate a lot ofwater during rainy seasons if the forest cover is removed, flashfloods occur.
Consideringthe above, different cultures, research traditions, andepistemologies should be utilized to inform environmental education(Zandvliet,2009, p. 1). This complexity creates room for a variety of forms forenvironmental learning, whether in the informal, formal, ornon-formal context. Cultural diversity is considered, mostly, ineducational circles. Educators, in essence, believe in the notionthat the world has the capacity to offer different perspectives on aparticular issue. Also, in order to respond to the needs of thediverse populations across the world, attention should be directedtoward the variations in society. Thus, to locate the majority ofideas and approaches, consideration should be accorded to generaleducational research or fields such as environmental justice, scienceeducation, indigenous education, and health education.
Ina recap of the above discussion, diversity is perceivable as a myriadof individual differences and connections that exist among people. Inessence, diversity encapsulates various human characteristics, forinstance, age, race, national origin, creed, sexual orientation, andethnicity. Thus, considering the before-mentioned understanding,diversity can be viewed as the attribute of being different. Theconcept of diversity delineates the capacity of people being able towork together and live without creating conflict. The majority ofproblems generate from a lack of awareness and understanding aboutdifferent cultures or perceptions about particular events. Issuescentering on the pros and cons of construction versus deforestationin society, for example, have led to the development of controversialdebates regarding the practice that is more favorable to thewell-being of the human race, as discussed above.
Chakravarty,S., Ghosh, S., Suresh, C., Dey, A., & Shukla, G. (2012).Deforestation: Causes, Effects and Control Strategies, 6. Retrievedfromhttp://cdn.intechopen.com/pdfs/36125/InTechDeforestation_causes_effects_and_control_strategies.pdf
Parvis,L. (2005). Understandingcultural diversity in today`s complex world.[Morrisville, NC]: Lulu Press.
Patrick,H. & Kumar, V. (2012). Managing Workplace Diversity: Issues andChallenges. SAGEOpen,2(2),1. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/2158244012444615
USEnvironmental Protection Agency. (2016). EnvironmentalJustice | US EPA. Epa.gov.Retrieved 23 July 2016, from https://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice
Washington,D. (2008). The Concept of Diversity, 3. Retrieved fromhttp://dwashingtonllc.com/images/pdf/publications/the_concept_of_diversity.pdf
Zandvliet,D. (2009). Diversityin environmental education research.Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.