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Advocacy and Social Justice Project

Advocacy and Social Justice Project

Part 1: Introduction

Even though there have been some improvements in the protection of the environment worldwide, myriads of African Americans are continually facing the challenge of living in unhealthy and unsafe physical environments. Within this community, most are economically impoverished, increasing their vulnerability to greater health hazards in their neighbourhoods, jobs, and homes (Braithwaite, Taylor & Treadwell, 2009). More often than not, the media announces their discoveries on some communities, especially minority communities fighting chemical plants, incinerators, landfills, or other polluting industries. This paper will discuss the historical background of African Americans and their battle with petrochemical companies that have more negatively impacted their lives than positively impacted them. It will also describe the situation in Port Arthur, Texas, and discuss the actors involved in advocacy to address the issue of Pollution that has negatively affected minority groups, especially African-American and Hispanic communities.

Historical Background

In the 1980s, the idea of environmental justice had not yet made its way to the highlights of social justice groups, civil rights, and environmental groups (Braithwaite, Taylor & Treadwell, 2009). However 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. went to Memphis to discuss the economic and environmental agenda of striking African garbage workers (Braithwaite, Taylor & Treadwell, 2009). The striking workers demanded equal pay and favourable work conditions, but this mission was not realized as King was assassinated. According to Lynch (2022), African Americans were mainly the descendants of the victims of slavery who were forced to live and work in the new land of America. The rights of this ethnic group were limited, and they did not have a rightful share in the political, social, and economic progress of the U.S. However, their contribution to the culture and history of the U.S. is tremendous.

It is mainly because of segregation and discrimination that were prominent in the U.S. that forced African Americans to reside in places that were considered unfavourable. In the 1980s, Black homeowners started their fight to keep a sanitary landfill in Houston from the suburban middle-income place (Braithwaite, Taylor & Treadwell, 2009). The residents of Houston created the NECAG- the Northeast Community Action Group and their lawyer, McKeever Bullard, filed a lawsuit to stop the facility’s building. According to Bullard (2001), Southwestern v. Bean Waste Management Inc. was the first lawsuit filed in 1979 to oppose the construction of a waste facility under civil rights law. They add that the Houston case was a landmark three years earlier before environmental justice was catapulted into the nation, mainly in North Carolina African American Warren County.

Since its inception in Warren County, where a landfill prompted protests and more than 500 arrests, the environmental justice movement has made wonderful progress. These protests are responsible for studying the U.S. General Accounting Office of 1983. This study showed that three off-site hazardous landfills in Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, and Alabama were located in African American communities even though African Americans made up 20% of the area’s population (Braithwaite, Taylor & Treadwell, 2009). These protests also bred what advocates term environmental Racism (Cox, 2018). Advocates have argued that African Americans are not suffering from Pollution from industrial facilities by chance. Still, this is because of decades of indifference from those who are in power and mainly from the dominant communities, Whites (Cox, 2018).

Throughout the history of West Virginia, for example, political power was concentrated in the industries that process natural gas, chemicals, coal, and steel mainly because of the jobs created by the industries. According to Cox (2018), these industries largely contribute to people running for political office. When the politicians get to the political seats, they receive pressure from toxic sectors not to be too tough on them or that they could seem tough but not do anything that would jeopardize the business. For instance, a town like West Virginia started because the African American Community had been freed by the rich white oppressors who owned plantations that the Blacks worked on. For many residents of West Virginia, for example, the Carbide plant is a source of pride because, during World War II, the plant made synthetic rubber and provided numerous jobs that sustained African American communities (Cox, 2018).

When African American communities started facing the challenge of land segregation, especially from the rich White landowners, the federal government ordered the U.S. states to either get rid of the race-based entrance laws or establish separate schools for African American students. Many leaders chose the latter choice, including West Virginia. As they went through locations for Black schools, they experienced hostile crowds, prompting many African Americans to settle near industrial areas (Cox, 2018).

According to Ward Jr. (2021), Carbide hired African Americans for low-paying menial jobs, whereas Whites were given higher and better-paying positions. This meant that the Blacks’ economic situation could hardly improve with the low income, let alone be able to finance their healthcare. This trend traces its roots from 1910 to 1920, during the Great Migration, when African Americans migrated to industrial cities to find work because of the labour shortages resulting from World War I (Library of Congress, 2022).

The Civil Rights Act of 1964

This law led to the cessation of segregation in public places and ended discrimination in employment based on national origin, sex, religion, colour, and race. This law marked the end of the application of Jim Crow laws that passed in the 1880s to prohibit racial intermarriages and encourage segregation in restaurants, streetcars, hospitals, and schools. Despite the legislature’s weaknesses, Blacks’ economic status increased, especially in the South (Wright, 2015). This is because industries started applying affirmative action as mandated by President Kennedy. Thus, industries started hiring Blacks.

Part 2: Advocacy Project

Area of Advocacy

The chosen area for advocacy is Port Arthur, Texas, where breathing seems like inhaling the exhausts of an ancient car. Port Arthur has the biggest oil refinery in North America and ten other highest-pollutant petrochemical facilities on the Texas Gulf Coast (DeBre, 2020). According to DeBre (2020), the EPA connected reproductive disorders, respiratory diseases, and cancer to the emissions in Port Arthur. To the east and north of the town is a 3,600-acre emitting Motiva plant, Saudi Aramco, and Shell Oil, while to the west lies a 4,000-acre plant that Texas owns in Valero (Genoways, 2014). Together, these facilities refine 900,000 barrels of crude daily (Genoways, 2014). Port Arthur has been ranked among the top offending cities as it records about 2,500 toxic emissions. The EPA reports show that the chemicals released by the facilities are known to cause reproductive disorders, congenital disabilities, and cancer.

Port Arthur has a population of about 54,000, with African Americans making up 33% and the Hispanic population 38% of the overall population (DeBre, 2020). In addition, Pelton (2022) writes that the city comprises 98% African Americans and that the community lives two-thirds below the poverty line. In a 2004 study by the University of Texas Medical Branch, 80% of people in Port Arthur self-reported health complications and heart ailments, while in Galveston, a town with similar dynamics as Port Arthur but with wind patterns, reported only 30% (DeBre, 2020). This is because, in Galveston, people experience fewer effects of industrial Pollution because of the wind.

The Need for Advocacy

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the Black community in Port Arthur was even more vulnerable than their White counterparts. This is because many residents were already reporting high rates of respiratory illnesses, and since the existing pollutants in the area jeopardized their immunity, the vulnerability to the pandemic increased. DeBre (2020) reported that COVID-19 killed more African Americans and Hispanic communities at the rate of 2.1 and 1.1 times, respectively, compared to White Americans. The CDC said that White Texans have health insurance despite their small population in Port Arthur. In contrast, Hispanics and African Americans are often uninsured, work in jobs that make social distancing difficult, and mostly experience homelessness (DeBre, 2020). With these reports, the African Americans and the Hispanic communities are most exposed to the toxic chemicals produced by the industrial facilities in the area and, therefore, need advocacy to address their issue.

Action Plan

If there is anything that states need to learn, it is that the petrochemical industries need to place the needs of the people first as opposed to their internal economic advantages and ensure that human welfare is at the centre of their decisions (Tickner, Geiser & Baima, 2021).

Goals:

  • To ensure that the petrochemical industries in Port Arthur adhere to the 2oC Paris Agreement target to get rid of fossil fuel dependency
  • To encourage the use of renewable energy

Steps to take:

  • To involve the media groups in the local area as well as internationally, such as TexasMonthly, The New York Times, and Devex, to publish the effects that the petrochemical companies have on the area and the local relevant authorities and organizations
  • To reach out to the African American communities affected by the industries in terms of their health and encourage them to report their cases. This ensures that the issue has real-life stories as evidence accompanied by the research made by the EPA, research companies, and health organization reports.
  • To involve the health institutions and encourage them to report health issues, including respiratory diseases, cancer, and reproductive problems, following the ethical procedures and protocol.

Organizations and People That Could Help Meet The Goal

Since most African American communities depend on the chemical industries for employment, it may be even more difficult to advocate for closure as many would lose their jobs, making their situation even worse. I would involve the relevant authorities such as the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the air quality specialists, the local organizations, especially those that the industries have partnered with, and the representatives of the petrochemical industries. The TCEQ will help analyze the toxic emissions levels, such as carbon II oxide and sulfur IV oxide and ensure that they meet the national standards of operation.

More importantly, I will contact local activist organizations such as the Port Arthur Community Action Network and liaise with them in protests against the toxic emitting companies that refuse to comply with the set standards. I will also share stories of the affected people in the community. On board, there will also be Ken Paxton, the Texas Attorney General, because he has also been actively defending the rights of the people of Texas by filing lawsuits against some petrochemical companies (DeBre, 2020).

Moreover, the Texas regulatory agencies will be involved in the action, especially since they were far removed from protecting the rights of the people in Texas when Hurricane Harvey hit Texas. Rather, they failed to investigate the petrochemical companies’ releases due to the hurricane and did not even hold the petrochemical companies accountable for their actions (Bajak & Olsen, 2018). They waived their fines, which, according to Flores et al. (2021), is considered unlawful. Therefore, involving activists and the attorney general in the action plan would ensure that the relevant actors are responsible for their functionality and responsibility towards the people of Texas, particularly the African Americans and the Hispanic community. All these actors will liaise to work together to push the petrochemical plants to use renewable energy strictly.

How the Plan Will Improve the Area

This action plan will help the relevant authorities to be on their feet about the concerns of the people they serve. They would ensure a distance between the petrochemical industries and the authorities regarding roles and responsibilities so that the petrochemical companies find it hard to bribe or feel entitled to be protected by the government. With the international protocol involved, highlights of the real situation on the ground will be unfiltered, calling for any international intervention that would secure the rights of the African Americans and the Hispanic communities as well as other residents of Port Arthur. Petrochemical companies will also be more likely to use renewable energy in their processing. According to Panwar, Kaushik & Kothari (2011), renewable energy reduces the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Recently, renewable energy has been said to be central in addressing the energy poverty and climate change challenges in Africa because renewable energy technologies present favourable, environmentally sound sources of electricity (Adams & Acheampong, 2019).

Sourcesrenewable energy sources such as hydro and solar have a low carbon content and thus are expected to pollute the environment less than non-renewable energy sources. Besides, many empirical research studies have supported the use of renewable energy in terms of enhancing energy justice, economic growth, and reducing the degradation of the environment. For instance, Bhattacharya et al. (2017) used the system-GMM, a system-generalized moment method, to determine the effect of renewable energy on the emissions of carbon IV oxide for 85 developing and developed nation-states. The reports were significantly positive in terms of environmental quality and economic growth. Also, Hu et al. (2018) researched the effect of energy consumption on the emissions of carbon IV oxide for 25 third-world countries from 1996 to 2012 by using dynamic ordinary least squares and the fully modified ordinary least square techniques. Their findings were that renewable energy reduces carbon IV oxide emissions. Other researchers also supported these findings, like Inglesi-Lotz & Dogan (2018), Apergis et al. (2010), and Al-Mulali et al. (2015), among others. About these findings, it is clear that both the companies and the people of Port Arthur would benefit because of reduced Pollution and improved energy and economic gain for the companies and the workers in the companies.

Code of Ethics

This advocacy will seek to enforce and protect the human and legal rights of the patients and responders of Port Arthur. This advocacy shall respect the volunteers’ self-determination, privacy, and dignity. For instance, volunteers’ names will not be published or shared with the parties involved. Additionally, their stories will only be shared with their consent. In seeking the reported cases at the local health institutions, this advocacy will also ensure that the hospital protocol is followed unless there is a violation of patients’ rights, upon which the legal representatives will be called upon for intervention.

Part 3: Reflection- Insights and Conclusion

In sum, it is clear that most plants polluting the environment are also huge political participants. This has made it difficult for the relevant authorities to hold them accountable for their irresponsible actions affecting the residents. Therefore, having a multifaceted team that would weaken the leniency that the government or political agencies have towards the companies is likely to put the companies on their toes in being upfront about their goals and social responsibility to the community. Additionally, based on the findings of several research studies, renewable energy has yielded benefits such as clean energy, a better environment, and economic gain for African countries. Besides, the studies that have shown insignificant effects of renewable energy have been due to the income or regional-specific differences in political institutions in democratic development (Adams & Acheampong, 2019). This means that politics still plays a huge part in addressing the issue of Pollution.

References

Adams, S., & Acheampong, A. O. (2019). Reducing carbon emissions: the role of renewable energy and democracy. Journal of Cleaner Production, 240, 118245.

Al-Mulali, U., Saboori, B., & Ozturk, I. (2015). Investigating the environmental Kuznets curve hypothesis in Vietnam. Energy policy, 76, 123-131.

Apergis, N., Payne, J. E., Menyah, K., & Wolde-Rufael, Y. (2010). The causal dynamics between emissions, nuclear energy, renewable energy, and economic growth. Ecological Economics, 69(11), 2255-2260.

Bajak, F. & Olsen, L. (2018). Silent Spills. Part 1: In Houston and beyond, Harvey’s Spills leave a Toxic Legacy. https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/In-Houston-and-beyond-Harvey-s-spills-leave-a-12771237.php

Braithwaite, R.L., Taylor, S.E. & Treadwell, H.M. (2009). Health Issues in the Black Community, Edition 3. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.

Bullard, R. D. (2001). Environmental justice in the 21st century: Race still matters. Phylon (1960-), 49(3/4), 151-171.

Cox, B. (2018). Environmental Racism has left Black Americans three times more likely to die from Pollution. https://qz.com/1226984/environmental-racism-has-left-black-americans-three-times-more-likely-to-die-from-pollution/

DeBre, E. (2020). Creating COVID-199 Medical Equipment in Port Arthur Puts Residents’ Health at Risk. TexasMonthly.

Flores, A. B., Castor, A., Grineski, S. E., Collins, T. W., & Mullen, C. (2021). Petrochemical releases disproportionately affected socially vulnerable populations along the Texas Gulf Coast after Hurricane Harvey. Population and Environment, 42(3), 279-301.

Genoways, T. (2014). Port Arthur, Texas: American Sacrifice Zone. https://www.nrdc.org/onearth/port-arthur-texas-american-sacrifice-zone

Hu, H., Xie, N., Fang, D., & Zhang, X. (2018). The role of renewable energy consumption and commercial services trade in carbon dioxide reduction: Evidence from 25 developing countries. AppliedEnergyy, 211, 1229-1244.

Library of Congress (2021). The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom: The Segregation Era (1900-1939). https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/civil-rights-act/segregation-era.html

Lynch, H. (2022). African Americans. https://www.britannica.com/topic/African-American

Panwar, N. L., Kaushik, S. C., & Kothari, S. (2011). Role of renewable energy sources in environmental protection: A review. Renewable and sustainable energy reviews, 15(3), 1513-1524.

Pelton, T. (2022). ‘Port Arthur should not look like this.’ https://onebreathhou.org/newsroom/2022/01/port-arthur-texas-air-pollution-health-economy/

Ward Jr., K. (2021). How Black Communities Becomee “Sacrifice Zones” for Industrial Air Pollution. ProPublica.

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Question 


I AM A 37 WHITE FEMALE, SINGLE MOM TO A CHILD ON THE SPECTRUM***
Advocacy is an action to support and change an issue impacting a group or population. In human services, advocacy is an important part of what we do. As a human service worker, you will assist individuals and communities in meeting their needs and function as effectively as possible. We advocate for our clients, populations’ needs, and our profession. For your final assignment, you will choose one cultural group (e.g., a specific racial, ethnic, spirituality, generational, disability, LGBTQIA+, socioeconomic group) different from the one you belong to and develop an advocacy project. Your final paper will have three parts: an introduction that examines the background of your chosen cultural group, your advocacy project that provides details of an advocacy effort for your selected cultural group, and a reflection on what you have learned from completing this project.

Advocacy and Social Justice Project

Advocacy and Social Justice Project

Before beginning work on this assignment,

Read Chapter 1, Advocacy’s Place Within Social Work Practice, within Advocacy and Social Work Practice (Links to an external site.).
Read The Importance of Advocacy and Advocacy Competencies in the Human Service Professions (Links to an external site.).
Research your chosen cultural group. This includes the following:
Finding information about pertinent historical, political, social, economic, and cultural factors related to your selected cultural group;
Finding an area for which you can create an advocacy project;
Finding facts, statistics, and stories that show the need for your advocacy project;
Identifying people and organizations that can aid in your advocacy project;
Identifying ethical codes and considerations; and
Finding a law about your chosen cultural group.
Consider downloading and using the Week 5: Advocacy and Social Justice Project Download Week 5: Advocacy and Social Justice Project template to complete your assignment.
In your paper,

Part 1: Introduction
Identify a cultural group that is different from the one you belong to.
Summarize the historical, political, social, economic, and cultural factors related to your chosen cultural group.
Identify at least one relevant law that has impacted your chosen cultural group, either positively or negatively.
Part 2: Advocacy Project
Create an advocacy project for your chosen cultural group or population, which includes the following:                  Identify what area you want to advocate for concerning the cultural group you have identified.
Analyze why this area is important for advocacy; include facts, statistics, and stories that show the need for this work.
Create your action plan for advocacy (i.e., what you could do). Be sure to include at least two goals, at least three steps you will take to accomplish the goals, and organizations and people that could help you meet the goal.
Explain how your advocacy plan will improve the area you identified.
Identify any ethical considerations you need to understand when taking on your advocacy project (use an appropriate code of ethics).
Part 3: Reflection                                                                                                                                                       Discuss at least two insights you gained from this project.

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