Environmental Justice causes refer to the root factors and systemic issues
that contribute to the disproportionate burden of environmental hazards
and the unequal distribution of environmental benefits within

Common environmental injustice causes include:

Contamination Pollution and Industrial Practices:

Industries, toxic release inventory sites, and businesses engaging in pollution and contamination can disproportionately impact their workers and nearby communities.

Discriminatory Zoning, Land Use Policies:

Unjust zoning practices and land use policies that lead to the disproportionate placement of environmentally harmful facilities in marginalized communities.

Lack of Access to Environmental Services:

Unequal access to essential environmental services, such as clean water, sanitation, and green spaces, contributing to health disparities in specific communities.

Historical Injustices and Discrimination:

Deep-seated historical injustices, including redlining and discriminatory practices, which set the stage for ongoing environmental disparities and health inequities.

Inadequate Regulation and Enforcement:

Weak or uneven enforcement of environmental laws and regulations, allowing entities to engage in harmful practices without sufficient consequence, oversight, and recourse.

Economic Inequality and Power Disparities:

Economic disparities that result in marginalized communities having less power and influence to resist or address environmental injustices effectively.

The Climate Change Impacts and Extreme Weather:

Disproportionate exposure to the impacts of climate change, such as extreme weather events and rising sea levels, affecting vulnerable communities more severely.

Lack of Community Representation:

Insufficient involvement of affected communities in decision-making processes related to environmental policies, leading to the perpetuation of inequities.

Understanding and addressing these environmental justice causes is essential for creating lasting change. Efforts to rectify these issues involve advocacy, policy changes, community empowerment, and legal action to ensure a more just and sustainable future for all.

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Atenas Mena

Atenas Mena is the Environmental Health Director and shares a co-leadership role at CleanAirNow. Atenas was born and raised in Kansas City and is a proud first-generation Mexican American. She received her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Avila University in 2014 and went on to receive her master’s in nursing leadership from Missouri Western State University in 2019.

In addition to working as a nurse, Atenas received extensive environmental health training in the field, working with the Children’s Mercy Environmental Health Program team, as both an educator and a team coordinator. She has worked continuously throughout the last few years with CleanAirNow through boots-on-the-ground projects, served on the board of directors, and has recently transitioned into the current leadership role as Environmental Health Director. Atenas centers her work around reducing health inequities, educating communities on environmental health impacts, and empowering community members to have a voice and fight for equity and environmental justice.

Atenas recently received The Sapling Award in recognition of her outstanding commitment and leadership in environmental health nursing. This Award seeks to recognize a nurse leader who goes beyond everyday nursing endeavors to actively promote and protect environmental and human health and advance environmental justice.

Beto Lugo Martinez

Beto is an environmental justice organizer and co-executive director of CleanAirNow. He serves to raise community voices in the fight against environmental racism and to overcome the systemic exclusion of frontline communities from the decision-making process. His lived experience, growing up fenceline to a petrochemical facility continues to drive his work at the intersection of climate, environmental justice, and public health. He is a founding member of the California Environmental Justice Coalition, Co-Founder of La Union Hace La Fuerza, a farmworker justice organization and member of national CJ & EJ networks including the EJ Leadership Forum, Building Equity and Alignment (BEA) and the National Leadership Advisory Board Member of the Moving Forward Network.

Beto’s contributions to the movement include organizing, legislation that prioritizes environmental justice and community-led research amongst many other community-engaged initiatives that directly inform state policy. He has co-authored multiple academic publications on community-based participatory research, air pollution, data accessibility, and community engagement. In August 2023 was invited to continue serving through 2025 as a member of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Act Advisory Committee, to represent a grassroots frontline perspective. He also serves in advisory board roles of professional associations and academic institutions, such as the American Public Health Association’s Center for Climate, Health and Equity, Children’s Environmental Health Sciences Translational Research at USC, Community Engagement Core of the Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center at USC, Health Effects Institute Environmental Justice Advisory Group and USC MPH Public Health Advisory Board Member for the Trojan Scholars for Advancement in Public Health.

Beto is currently involved in a research project titled “Building Momentum to Bridge Climate and Health Across KU Campuses and the Community supported by the Health Humanities and Arts Research Collaborative, The Commons, and the Office of Research at the University of Kansas.”