ment officials and to the public. Seventeen principles of environmental justice were developed at a summit in Washington, D.C., in 1991 (Lee, 1992). This principle safeguards the right of all community members, especially those who are unequally affected by environmental hazards, to participate in the dialogue that advocates change.
In Atlanta, many issues involving environmental justice still need to be addressed. Large disparities among racial and ethnic groups continue to exist in land use patterns, housing, transportation, air quality, and toxic exposures. Nearly 83 percent of Atlanta’s African-American population compared to 60 percent of whites lives in zip codes that have an uncontrolled hazardous waste site. While African Americans and other minorities constitute 29.8 percent of the population in the five most populous counties that are contiguous to Atlanta (Fulton, Cobb, DeKalb, Gwinnett, and Clayton counties), they represent the majority of residents in five of the ten “dirtiest” zip codes in these large counties (Bullard et al., 2000). Nationally, 57 percent of whites, 65 percent of African Americans, and 80 percent of Hispanics live in areas with substandard air quality (Wernett and Nieves, 1992). The poor air quality has a disproportionate impact on the health of poor children, poor adults, and people of color. Transportation-related air pollution has a disproportionate effect on minority populations, even though 35 percent of African Americans in Atlanta do not own cars (Bullard et al., 2000). Because members of minority groups do more walking than others, they are at greater risk for pedestrian injuries in a city that eschews safe pedestrian environments. The ever-increasing sprawl of the city, with its growing congestion and continued destruction of green space, places costs on its population that are disproportionately borne by minority members.
Some panelists agreed that addressing environmental justice and forging solutions to the problems of environmental health require reaching across boundaries of race, ethnicity, culture, profession, neighborhood, and county to create a dialogue. Progress can be made when we build networks based on trust and reciprocity and work together toward common goals, many speakers suggested.
The environmental justice movement has borrowed much from Native Americans and indigenous people in terms of living in harmony with nature, explained Bullard. Several speakers concurred that for our long-term health as a species, we must view ourselves as a subset of the environment and make the health of the natural environment, and our place in it, our paramount goal. To create a bridge between the individualistic spirit in American society and the notion of social capital as valuable for the whole society, we must realize that each individual must make compromises for the common good. Accompanying this view must be the understanding that what is good for the whole society is also good for the individual. As educators, environmentalists, and health professionals, it is incumbent on us to create this vision in our communities.