Here’s a short ten-minute video that tells a simple story, a story that aligns with many of the projects taken on by our team here at Just Atonement. Spend a minute with a few of the residents of Uniontown, Alabama, a small community facing one of the most important challenges of our times: environmental injustice.
The First Issue: Toxic Industrial Waste
As the population of the planet swells exponentially, fossil fuel emissions accumulate in the atmosphere, and garbage and industrial waste gather and collect side by side with natural resources essential to sustain life, some populations are more exposed than others to the toxic results. Coal ash, a waste product produced by the mining and burning of coal for electricity generation, contains mercury, cadmium and arsenic, among other dangerous elements. All of these present hazards to human health, and even minor amounts of exposure can lead to lifelong issues including a variety of cancers.
But the EPA does not currently recognize coal ash as a chemical subject to regulation. And when huge quantities of ash are produced and released in to the environment, the final destination of this substance tends to reflect the corrupt values and economic disparity that harm our culture and our justice system as well as our environment.
The Second Issue: Sewage
Unfortunately, imported industrial waste is not the only danger faced by Uniontown residents. A failing local sewage system represents a second serious problem for nearby residents who witness overflow from the antiquated sewage treatment facility being released above ground and onto the clay-heavy soil, where it runs off into local rivers. This dangerous, toxic and badly outdated sewage disposal system requires repair and replacement, but so far, municipal funds and attention have not been dedicated to this urgent need.
The primary reason behind both dangers is clear to most residents of the town: they lack the financial power to fight back against a system of entrenched racial and economic injustice. At least, they lack this power at the moment. But instead of abandoning the town and the families they would be leaving behind, many of residents have resolved to stay where they are and continue fighting, working every day to gain a foothold in the unequal contest that lies before them.
The people of Uniontown who have resolved to stay and fight should not have to fight alone. Their efforts and similar efforts faced by small communities across the country lie at the heart of our mission. Join us as we identify populations who have been affected by environmental injustice and help them find the solutions and resolutions necessary to keep their struggling communities alive.