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Environmental Justice and The Role of Civil Society in Sustainability

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In a country or state, there consists of other parts which entail diversified individuals. For instance, Kenya, as a country, comprises different people who come from diverse regions, tribes, religions, and with distinct cultures. In these regions, there are individuals and families: Some who are wealthy while others are poor. However, even with all the diversities, all of them share the same nationality, Kenyans.

The Concept of Environmental Justice:

Conflicts have emerged before resulting from the diversities, whereby people do not embrace brotherhood. In some instances, the unfortunate may be taken advantage of. For instance, they may have to cut down their trees to make charcoal or timber which they can trade and earn a living; thus, end up compromising their environment, which results in making them vulnerable to diseases that are a result of environmental damage.

In another instance, a well-off person may take advantage of his wealth and power to place his animals in a residential area so that he can earn cash from milk. He then decides to build his house in a distant area and employs workers to take care of the animals and milk production. He neither buys nor advises them of protective clothing, yet they are dealing with waste disposal.

These workers get exposed to respiratory diseases. Besides, they conflict with the people living around. There should be no cow investment in residential areas (Gabrielli, 2018). Because releasing waste in such an area means that it will pollute the air of neighbors who may, in turn, fight the ones releasing it. If they are desperate and illiterate, they may be left to stay quiet and inhale the waste because they lack the power and are ignorant of human rights.

Moreover, whenever environmental regulations are discussed, the underprivileged and the middle people may not be allowed to participate. All these examples explain injustice. Environmental justice is whereby every individual or community is entitled to a clean, equivalent environmental protection regardless of the religion, race, origin, age, gender or income and takes part in making decisions that pertain to implementation or enforcement of laws governing the environment (Gould & Lewis, 2016).

The Concept of Sustainability:

Sustainability seeks to meet the needs of the present generation without jeopardizing future generations’ ability to meet the same needs. Zero environmental justice equals sustainability: If natural resources are overused, they degrade and, in the long last, put off sustainability. Many actors are involved in the promotion of sustainability, and civil society plays a vital role (Kadirbeyoğlu et al., 2017); hence this paper analyses the role of civil society in promoting sustainability.

The Civil Society:

There exist organizations or groups of people who come together intending to independently work for the benefits of another society where they set up offices or areas in the given society to operate from. They are collectively called civil societies, organizations, or groups that work together for the interest of the community (Macdonald, 2016).

Environmental Sustainability:

In efforts to promote sustainable development, civil society has been a vital stakeholder, especially in developing countries. One pillar of sustainability is environmental sustainability (Illankoon et al., 2017), which can be defined as the right use of the environment to provide needs without causing it harm.

For instance, think of walking around a garden, and then you spot a mango tree that is enriched with beautiful mangoes. Unfortunately, the mangoes are beyond your reach. Therefore you visualize ways of obtaining them; through climbing the tree, using stone, or getting a panga with which you can cut the tree and harvest all the mangoes.

Climbing a tree is a good idea if you are careful. Using a stone too is right to strike the mango. However, cutting down the tree means that in the next season, there will be no mangoes. Birds, as well as microorganisms, will have no shelter.

Also, the tree was issuing people with oxygen vital for breathing and taking away carbon (IV) oxide in addition to providing shelter and rain for crop development. Such an act compromises environmental sustainability, along with exposing everyone at risk. The civil society has helped prevent such circumstances in different ways.

The Contribution of Civil Society to Sustainable Development:

To begin with, civil society ensures public participation in environmental matters. Public participation is the involvement of citizens or the public in making decisions (Eden, 2016). An example of public participation is whereby you vote to elect your leaders. Any project in a community must affect the people.

Civil society ensures that there are actions like EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment), which must involve the community. This helps avoid adverse effects through mitigation and prevention.

For instance, someone may want to build an oil factory in the community. The factory will outsource oil and even create jobs. What about the environment and welfare of people living around? What will they do with the noise, air pollution, and waste materials which may be released to the rivers which they depend on?

All these issues must involve the public to make a wise decision. Without people to push the involvement, the innocent community might just be caught up in a dilemma with no one to help their suffering and degraded resources.

Secondly, civil society helps the community with change through awareness and support. They monitor the activities which may harm the environment and inform the public about their dangers and prevention measures.

They also help people to seek change (Gill, 2017). Activities existing in the community which threaten the environment can be done away with to prevent degradation and extinction with their help.

The civil societies involve environmental bodies like NEMA, where the need arises. For example, an industry that dumps its waste in the estate is a threat to life and resources like land and water. The public in the countryside may not know that there are rules and rights to a clean environment, so the civil society educates them and helps them in advocacy.

Thirdly, ignorance is a challenge today. Most people, especially in rural areas, know nothing about sustainability. Civil society has played a role in sustainable development awareness. It has made people aware of the importance and conservation of indigenous trees.

Furthermore, it educates the public with practices like sustainable energy use, and this helps the people to save from bills that come with electricity. Where there is no electricity, they provide awareness of opportunities that come with sun and wind to light their houses. These sources of energy are renewable hence cheap to obtain, very usable, and maintain a healthy environment.

Finally, civil society acts as an overseer in community and environmental issues through transparency and accountability (Shaheen, 2016). It makes every stakeholder answerable for their actions on the environment through close supervision and assessment.

The participation of civil society in environmental policies and implementation is crucial. One example is that it can influence the government to implement the policies and allocate disbursements in environmental management as well as promote partnerships between different organizations to support sustainability.


The civil society requires cooperation from the local community if sustainable development is to be effectively achieved. Every individual must play a role in issuing all useful information. Also, everyone’s practice affects the environment. Just the same way security starts with you, so is sustainability.

Taking care of the environment is each person’s duty. Practices like deforestation, poor waste disposal, the release of agricultural chemicals to rivers, and above all, public participation are vital if both the present and the future generations are to enjoy the benefits of natural resources.


  1. Gabrielli, L. (2018). Residential investment: cash cows or question marks?. Journal of Property Investment & Finance.
  2. Gould, K. A., & Lewis, T. L. (2016). Green gentrification: Urban sustainability and the struggle for environmental justice. Routledge.
  3. Kadirbeyoğlu, Z., Adaman, F., Özkaynak, B., & Paker, H. (2017). The effectiveness of environmental civil society organizations: An integrated analysis of organizational characteristics and contextual factors. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 28(4), 1717-1741.
  4. Macdonald, L. (2016). Supporting civil society: The political role of non-governmental organizations in Central America. Springer. DOI:10.1007/978-1-349-25178-0
  5. Illankoon, I. C. S., Tam, V. W., & Le, K. N. (2017). Environmental, economic, and social parameters in international green building rating tools. Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice, 143(2), 05016010.
  6. Eden, S. (2016). Public participation in environmental policy: considering scientific, counter-scientific, and non-scientific contributions. Public understanding of science.
  7. Gill, G. J. (2017). Dynamics of Democratization: Elites, Civil Society, and the Transition Process. Macmillan International Higher Education.DOI: 10.1007/978-0-333-98554-0
  8. Shaheen, H. (2016). Civil society engagement and education for sustainable development (ESD) in Egypt: A case study of El-Warraq area.

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