In this lesson, students explore an interactive map, learn about Cancer Alley, and take concrete action to address environmental injustice.
Step 1 - Inquire: Students explore the EPA’s Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool to use real data to start thinking about the relationship between demographic and environmental indicators (also known as environmental justice indicators).
Step 2 - Investigate: Students watch a video about Cancer Alley to show an example of a Black community disproportionately affected by asthma, cancer, and death from COVID-19 that will spark a classroom discussion on what the role of government and business should be in this issue.
Step 3 - Inspire: Students write a letter to a government official or business leader urging them to take action. Students can also create a social media post raising awareness about environmental justice.
This lesson introduces students to environmental justice and asks them to use an EPA mapping tool that shows how polluted an area is. The lesson also includes a video resource from Vox that highlights the area of Louisiana known as “Cancer Alley." To be as perfectly clear as possible, vast amounts of data and evidence show that people of color are disproportionately affected by pollution in the United States, and that higher exposure to pollutants directly correlates to higher incidence of disease. This video was produced in May of 2020, which is quite early on in the pandemic, and as such, some of the numbers presented in it are outdated. This outdated data is only for the numbers given when speaking on COVID-19 mortality rates. For example, the video says that Louisiana’s population is 32% Black (still correct) but Black people account for 56% of COVID-19 deaths. This is no longer the case as of July 2022, and according to data obtained from Louisiana’s government website, Black citizens account for 34% of deaths. While this is still disproportional, it is not as large of a disparity as when the video was produced. The same is true for Michigan, where Black residents now account for 17.5% of deaths but make up 14% of the population (data from michigan.gov). So, while this lesson highlights the importance of environmental justice and is overall scientifically sound, please just take note of the changes in the COVID-19 data.