Environmental burdens, as well as environmental benefits, are not shared equally by all members of society, leading to a disproportionate negative impact on low-income communities and communities of color. The Environmental Justice (EJ) movement recognizes how health, environmental quality, and social justice are all connected.
EJ has its roots in the Civil Rights movement, and many people regard the campaign to stop the siting of a PCB landfill in a predominately African-American community in Warren County, North Carolina in 1982 as the official beginning of the national Environmental Justice movement. Here was a clear case of race being used as a determining factor for the siting of a hazardous facility.
In December of 2007, the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island was officially formed to address the numerous environmental justice issues that currently face the residents of Providence. Many people who are involved now were part of a campaign to stop the siting of a public school on contaminated land on Adelaide Avenue in south Providence. Gradually this and other issues brought people and community organizations together to search for a solution, and they formed the Providence Environmental Justice Forum, holding its first statewide conference in November of 2007. Over the next year, volunteers for the EJ League secured funding, hired staff, found an office, and began the process to become an official non-profit organization. Staff organizers began conducting community outreach to build the base of the EJ League in November 2008.