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John Oliver is a national hero, always talking about issues of importance in clear and exasperatingly funny ways. Take last night’s show in which he highlighted “environmental racism” – a term used to describe environmental injustice that “occurs within a racialized context both in practice and policy” (thanks wikipedia!). He clearly shows the connection with historical “red lining” — in which people of color were, through official government policy(!), denied the ability to purchase homes in certain areas and therefore kept segregated in many cities — and current environmental policy which often designates those same areas as “sacrifice zones” where heavy industry, toxic waste and superfund sites tend to be located.
Oliver does a great job in analyzing government policy, states that the Biden Administration has said publicly that it will focus on environmental justice — EPA even has an environmental justice website! — but also notes that the administration is not meeting its promises on this front and needs to do more.
One thing he failed to mention — and I don’t blame him because it is after all tangential to the issue of environmental racism — is that the EPA plans to sunset its online archive! According to the Verge article — which cites our pals at the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI)!:
Come July, the EPA plans to retire the archive containing old news releases, policy changes, regulatory actions, and more. Those are important public resources, advocates say, but federal guidelines for maintaining public records still fall short when it comes to protecting digital assets.
It’s clear, as Oliver notes, that it’s going to take really big steps to address environmental racism. Local environmental groups will continue to be critical in pushing for changes in government policy and regulation, but they will continue to need access to environmental government information and that’s where librarians can and should do everything in their power to assist in addressing this horrible problem.