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nature, housing and environmental racism

Here in Brazil, on November 20th we celebrate Black Awareness Day, for the resistance to slavery, the fight for freedom and access to civil rights - and now more than ever: environmental justice!

construction of buildings in the middle of the tropical forest

You wake up, open the windows and feel the coolness touching your face. As you walk down the street, the sky is beautiful and the sun gently touches your skin, filtered through the trees that line the entire path.

You breathe in and smell the flower, the mixture of leaves that have fallen with the earth ready to transform it into nutrients for the plants, and these have a woody smell.

On difficult days, just cross the street and there is clean, green and soft grass to welcome you. Or you can walk around the block and observe the variety of trees, shrubs and flowers. You can easily hear the birds singing.

When you turn on the television, most of the news is related to environmental disasters: floods in the south, landslides in the southeast, extreme drought in the north... It also covers the lack of basic sanitation in several regions of the country.

There is a myth that environmental issues affect everyone equally.

The lack of investment in regions without basic sanitation, the dumping of waste that is harmful to health in regions of social vulnerability, the unequal distribution of housing, the absence of urban planning, land grabbing and the exploitation of land belonging to local people are examples of the manifestation of environmental racism.

It is not a coincidence that black and indigenous populations are the most affected by environmental disasters.

The colonial period made social structures based on the enslavement of black and indigenous people here in Brazil. These people became invisible and placed on the margins of society, physically and socially. The manumission process was carried out without any type of reparation for the damage caused by slavery or integration of the freed people.

This is how peripheral communities were formed, where many are in risk areas - and with a black majority.

infográfico sobre racismo ambiental

I now invite you to reflect on the insertion of black people in Brazilian society.

Even though miscegenation creates a feeling of harmony, with apparent affection between differences, prejudice still occurs on a daily basis, but in a masked way - the way of looking, distrust, the way of imposing oneself… Returning to this point about valuing the culture and history of black people is important to make us recognize our ancestries and face the open wounds still present in contemporary times - we live with the violence that began during the slavery period.

When we talk about a nation project that seeks real, democratic diversity, we must start with environmental justice, which has as its backdrop the imagery of sustainability, however, an expanded view of the term.

Thus arises the idea of ​​environmental justice:

“[...]a set of principles and practices that ensure that no social group, whether ethnic or class, bears a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences arising from economic operations, political decisions and policy programs public policies, as well as the absence or omission of such policies.”
Valdir Lamim-Guedes

Currently, to achieve sustainability, we have to preserve people with their customs and knowledge.

There are paths we can take towards social justice:

  • improvement of social indicators;

  • urban planning for investment in sanitation and afforestation in peripheral regions;

  • recognition of quilombos as traditional populations and demarcation of theirs as socio-environmental relevance - for maintaining the nature where they are located.

The debate for a solution must involve everyone, since the problems faced by black people were normalized by Brazilian society - it was created and remains today.

Yearning for a more sustainable society means adopting a new position: bringing racial issues closer to socio-environmental issues.



LAMIM-GUEDES, Valdir. Consciência Negra, Justiça Ambiental e Sustentabilidade. Eco Debate, 2010. Disponível em: <>.


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