Resolution Adopted by the CCAR
OPPOSING THE PRACTICE OF ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM
Adopted by the 107th Annual Convention of the
Central Conference of American Rabbis
Environmental Racism, the placement of significant and disproportionate
environmental risks on the health and safety of impoverished communities and
communities of color, has become a growing concern in the United States for
many years. These hazards include direct exposure to unsafe drinking water,
untreated sewage, toxic waste, and nuclear waste. Often these hazards are
placed within a community as “economic ventures”– placing landfills,
incinerators, and factories emitting toxic substances too close to
playgrounds, sacred Indian Burial sites, and water aquifers.
As rabbis, environmental justice is clearly implied in our deep concern for
justice, civil rights, and a clean environment. Our tradition has always
championed equal protection under the law, regardless of one’s economic status
or racial background. As the Torah teaches, “do not subvert the rights of
your needy” (Exodus 23:6); “do not favor the poor or show deference to the
rich” (Leviticus 19:15). This is because all humans are created b’tzelem
Elohim, and, since we are all equally God’s children, we should all equitably
share in the bounty– and travails– of the earth.
The threat to environmental justice is especially great now in the 104th
Congress. Anti-regulatory legislation, attempts to gut key environmental laws
such as the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Clean Air
Act, and severe cuts to environmental and public health agencies such as the
Environmental Protection Agency and OSHA, disproportionately affect minority
and impoverished communities.
In recent years religious organizations, community based organizations, civil
rights groups, and environmental groups have increasingly spoken out on this
issue, as reflected in our own community by a strong resolution on
environmental justice passed in 1995 by the National Jewish Community
Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC).
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Central Conference of American Rabbis:
1. Affirms the right of all people to live and work in environments with clean
air, land, water, and food;
2. Recognizes the obligation of government to protect and promote public
health by ensuring the establishment of effective regulations and by
modernizing facilities to safely minimize, manage, and dispose of toxic,
nuclear, and other hazardous wastes;
3. Encourages all community members to participate in the planning and
implementation of public health regulations, environmental clean-ups, and
development projects in their communities.
4. Calls for the development of comprehensive strategies by local, state, and
national government to address the environmental degradation currently
suffered by affected communities
5. Urges state and federally supported agencies to ensure that their programs
do not inflict disproportionate environmental harm on poor and minority
communities, and that these communities have equal access to information on
polluting sources and environmental clean-up programs.
6. Requests that public and private sectors engage in practices contributing
to the development of a healthy economy and a sustainable and livable
7. Decries cuts to and limitations within the federal budget and
appropriations measures disallowing the federal government from enforcing
public health and safety standards on clean water, air, Superfund clean ups,
wetlands, and drinking water, will significantly increase exposure to toxics
8. Reaffirms the CCAR’s commitment to promote environmental protection and
environmental justice in the Jewish community through education and advocacy.