Fundamental to environmental justice, is the idea that all people have a right to a healthy environment – no matter what community they live in, or what their race, color, nation or origin or income.
KAHEA's environment justice programs today focus primarily on serving the estimated 40,000 residents of Wai`anae, on the island of O`ahu. Many of the environmental “bads” that result from unsustainable food, energy, and transportation systems fall disproportionately on residents of the Wai`anae Moku, where over 60% of residents are Hawaiian.
These communities have some of the highest rates of asthma in Hawai`i. Cancers, and other diseases, like diabetes, related to environmental stressors are also of concern to Wai`anae Moku communities. Improving health services and preventative care is incredibly important. It is also important that we put resources towards addressing the root environmental stressors that contribute to incidence of these diseases.
It is a common misperception that poor health stems solely from individuals making unhealthy choices. Study after study confirms that our economic, social and built environments shape health. We must address the root of of these inequities, including solutions for environmental injustice.
Wai`anae is blessed with rich natural, cultural and human resources. Wai`anae Moku residents have worked for many years towards the restoration of lands and waters where they live and work. Today, this is represented by a growing movement and a growing coalition, building on these past successes and pushing forward. Younger community members are joining with kūpuna, engaging in active cultural practice and joining the effort to defend agricultural lands, air quality, water and stream quality, and human health.