Historically marginalized and underserved communities across the globe are disproportionately exposed to environmental injustice and burdened with the health impact of pollution. These communities are simultaneously navigating institutionalized barriers to health and environmental equity, including barriers embedded in the health care system, the voting process, the criminal justice system, housing, and education. Environmental justice requires these institutional barriers to be entirely removed and for communities to no longer experience a disproportionate environmental burden.
The work toward environmental justice has historical and present-day roots in the Black and Indigenous civil rights movements. Black and Indigenous communities, along with other communities of color, immigrant communities, and impoverished communities, continue to fight the historical legacies of discrimination.
The Healthy Air Network seeks to support communities in Massachusetts, such as Springfield, Holyoke, and Chicopee, in their fight for health equity and environmental justice at all stages in the process because we know that those who are closest to the problem should be the best equipped to solve it.
Launched as the Pioneer Valley Healthy Air Network, our Advisory Board decided to change the name to Healthy Air Network, to show respect to the local indigenous communities.
Climate Change and Air Pollution
Air quality issues are intimately related to climate change. Our energy, industrial, and transportation systems and other economic activities generate climate-warming greenhouse gases and air pollutants that negatively affect human health. Today, our climate is warming at increased rates. This warming also contributes to greater levels of ground-level ozone, which forms more readily in hot weather. As the climate warms, we are also experiencing more extreme weather events, such as heat waves, droughts, and wildfires, that release black carbon into the atmosphere, again further warming the planet and undermining local air quality. The complex interaction between air pollution and climate change presents a major challenge for environmental protection efforts, but it also offers the potential for common solutions, like transitioning to clean energy sources and zero-pollution transportation systems.