A map showing the sensitive locations (such as daycares and schools) and polluters in the Hegenberger Corridor. Communities for a Better Environment mapped the locations as part of their “Freedom to Breathe” campaign. Courtesy Communities for a Better Environment.
Nehanda Imara got a call from a grade school principal, who “wanted to know what that funny smell was going across their playground.” Imara, a community organizer for Communities for a Better Environment, found the answer: a metal refinery blowing toxic emissions directly downwind to the playground.The grade school— Acorn School—is located in “Deep East” Oakland. At Acorn, 77 percent of the 250 students are eligible for the free lunch program and all students are of color.
“Environmental justice“ is a term used to describe equal access to healthy habitat. What Acorn School experienced was an act of environmental injustice, common in poor communities where people lack resources to protect themselves. Such injustices sometimes occur because of loopholes in pollution regulation: when city officials rezone the land near pollution sources, low income families can find themselves in toxic habitats.