Resolution Adopted by the CCAR

OPPOSING THE PRACTICE OF ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM

Adopted by the 107th Annual Convention of the
Central Conference of American Rabbis
March, 1996

Background:

Environmental Racism, the placement of significant and disproportionate environmental risks on the health and safety of impoverished communities and communities of color, has become a growing concern in the United States for many years. These hazards include direct exposure to unsafe drinking water, untreated sewage, toxic waste, and nuclear waste. Often these hazards are placed within a community as "economic ventures"-- placing landfills, incinerators, and factories emitting toxic substances too close to playgrounds, sacred Indian Burial sites, and water aquifers.

As rabbis, environmental justice is clearly implied in our deep concern for justice, civil rights, and a clean environment. Our tradition has always championed equal protection under the law, regardless of one's economic status or racial background. As the Torah teaches, "do not subvert the rights of your needy" (Exodus 23:6); "do not favor the poor or show deference to the rich" (Leviticus 19:15). This is because all humans are created b'tzelem Elohim, and, since we are all equally God's children, we should all equitably share in the bounty-- and travails-- of the earth.

The threat to environmental justice is especially great now in the 104th Congress. Anti-regulatory legislation, attempts to gut key environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Clean Air Act, and severe cuts to environmental and public health agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and OSHA, disproportionately affect minority and impoverished communities.

In recent years religious organizations, community based organizations, civil rights groups, and environmental groups have increasingly spoken out on this issue, as reflected in our own community by a strong resolution on environmental justice passed in 1995 by the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC).

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Central Conference of American Rabbis:

1. Affirms the right of all people to live and work in environments with clean air, land, water, and food;

2. Recognizes the obligation of government to protect and promote public health by ensuring the establishment of effective regulations and by modernizing facilities to safely minimize, manage, and dispose of toxic, nuclear, and other hazardous wastes;

3. Encourages all community members to participate in the planning and implementation of public health regulations, environmental clean-ups, and development projects in their communities.

4. Calls for the development of comprehensive strategies by local, state, and national government to address the environmental degradation currently suffered by affected communities

5. Urges state and federally supported agencies to ensure that their programs do not inflict disproportionate environmental harm on poor and minority communities, and that these communities have equal access to information on polluting sources and environmental clean-up programs.

6. Requests that public and private sectors engage in practices contributing to the development of a healthy economy and a sustainable and livable environment.

7. Decries cuts to and limitations within the federal budget and appropriations measures disallowing the federal government from enforcing public health and safety standards on clean water, air, Superfund clean ups, wetlands, and drinking water, will significantly increase exposure to toxics and pollution.

8. Reaffirms the CCAR's commitment to promote environmental protection and environmental justice in the Jewish community through education and advocacy.