California Environmental Justice Alliance

Building Healthy Communities from the Ground up

Cumulative Impacts: a critical issue for EJ communities


Left: Cumulative Impact map of Oakland. Red areas are “highly impacted,” environmental justice communities.
Right: Communities map cumulative impacts in their region.

CEJA has worked for the past two years with leading researchers to develop statewide maps of Environmental Justice communities. Check out the statewide maps. The maps were created by the Environmental Justice Screening Methodology, a tool that scientifically identifies communities that are highly impacted. CEJA has worked with leading researchers Rachel Morello-Frosch (UC Berkeley), Jim Sadd (Occidental College) and Manuel Pastor (University of Southern California) to help refine their model. In 2011, we field-tested the tool in 11 environmental justice communities across California.

Cumulative Impacts is a technical term to describe the lived reality in many low-income communities and communities of color. Residents in these neighborhoods are constantly bombarded by a range of environmental issues, pollution sources, and social and economic stressors, such as high unemployment or unaffordable housing. Unfortunately, environmental and community development policies do not take  a comprehensive, holistic view of how these issues impact a person’s health and well-being. The time has come to take action on Cumulative Impacts. Environmental Justice communities have suffered for too long under policy frameworks that fail to address the reality of living amidst many pollution sources.

Now, a branch of the California Environmental Protection Agency is creating its own Cumulative Impact tool. We are excited about this forward movement, but want to make sure the tool accurately captures environmental justice communities.

We  believe the most important next step on Cumulative Impacts is to start using a cumulative impact tool policy development to help improve decision-making to achieve change in EJ communities. Stay tuned for updates on this important issue!.