Dr. Sacoby Wilson's own experiences are part of what led him to a career studying environmental injustice and ways to change it.
"I'm from Vicksburg, Mississippi. So I actually grew up near a highway, a major highway," said Wilson.
Wilson is part of the Justice 40 initiative, a coalition that aims to help the Biden administration fulfill its promise of directing 40% of climate and clean infrastructure investments in historically marginalized communities.
"We want a floor to be 40% of direct investments," he said. "What happens a lot is when we have these types of programs, the dollars don't get to the community with the most need."
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"Southern Californians breathe some of the dirtiest air in the country. These are the types of communities that should be at the frontlines of receiving the benefits of investments that are meant to reduce air pollution and fight the effects of climate change," said UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation Deputy Director, Colleen Callahan.
ABC Owned Television Stations recently published an equity report looking at data in cities across the country, including Los Angeles, where it found Black and Latino residents make up the largest share of people who live in neighborhoods the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has deemed highest risk due to dangers posed by hazardous facilities.
The UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation released the Making Justice 40 a Reality Report. It urges government leaders to follow three principles in its action plans: 1. Ensure they are justice driven. 2. Community-powered 3. Make changes accountable by institutionalizing policies that center on justice and equity.
"What we also recommend is that it not be a goal that it really be a requirement. And so, this is something that Congress could decide to do, to actually make the goal become a statutory requirement into law," said Callahan.
The report also addresses ways to best identify communities most in need and stresses the importance of providing support to access funds.
"These communities deserve better than trickle down," said Wilson. "Making sure that we have direct investments in the communities to ensure that they're getting those energy investments, those housing investments, they're getting the transportation investments, the investments of food, the investments and healthy infrastructure that they deserve."