Environmental Injustice

Discriminatory sugarcane burning regulations overseen by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and enforced by the Florida Forestry Service are based on wind direction and speed. The rules are written to protect the more affluent communities of eastern Palm Beach and Martin counties; permits will be denied if pollution and ashfall from sugarcane burning are projected to impact them. Meanwhile burn permits are approved when winds blow smoke and ash toward the lower income rural communities in and around the Everglades Agricultural Area. This leads the predominantly African-American and Hispanic communities in western Palm Beach County, which are surrounded by over 75 percent of the total sugarcane acreage in Florida, to disproportionately bear the negative impacts of Big Sugar’s outdated harvesting practices.

Go to the Resources for links to research articles on environmental injustice.

"Discriminatory burn zone regulations is something else we have to deal with. Here in the Glades, we don’t consider ourselves as affluent as neighbors to the east in Wellington where when the winds blow east toward their communities they don’t burn. But when it burns toward our communities in the west they do burn. That has to stop and we are here today to let the community and the world know that we want the same respect and same dignity that our neighbors in the east have."

- Belle Glade resident, Pastor Steve Messam