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July 2022: Principles of Environmental Justice

It's July and that means it's the time we, as a nation, commemorate America's independence. After SCOTUS's decision that took away a woman's federally protected right to make decisions about her body and health, as well as the decisions that took away other federally protected rights (including the sovereignty of Indigenous tribes), that celebration is even more complicated than it has always been considering the number of people who have been less than "free" at different points in the U.S. over the last 400 years. As organizer, educator and curator Mariame Kaba has said, "Let this radicalize you rather than lead you to despair," and "Everything that is worthwhile is done with other people." We agree, so we are going to come together in July to expand our understanding of Environmental Justice. There were inspired discussions in each of our June gatherings and many of you asked if we could take some more time on the subject. One of the things that came up a lot in the conversations in June was how we are socialized to see environmentalism as something that is outside of our communities. The Yes! Magazine article "Justice at the Heart of Climate Activism" we used as a prompt helped us see that environmental justice considers all of the environments in which we live, including work, home, community as well as national parks. With that in mind, we thought we would try something different for the prompt this month that gets us to examine how the media's coverage of environmentalism and climate change might reinforce gaps in our awareness of environmental racism and environmental justice. To do that, we are going to look at two things:

  1. The first principal from the 17 Principles of Environmental Justice*: "Environmental Justice affirms the sacredness of Mother Earth, ecological unity and the interdependence of all species, and the right to be free from ecological destruction." (*These principles were drafted and adopted at the National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in 1991)

  2. This short video from ABC News.

Here are some questions to help reflect on this issue:

  1. How does this news coverage help or hinder my ability to connect climate change with systemic racism?

  2. Where do I seek information about issues related to the environment?

  3. How has my relationship to individualism shaped my relationship to the environmental justice movement?

  4. How much do I know about the impact of climate change on communities of color in my town or city? How can I learn more?

“'Environmental equity' is not environmental justice. 'Environmental equity' is the government's response to the demands of the environmental justice movement. Government agencies, like the EPA, have been coopting the movement by redefining environmental justice as 'fair treatment and meaningful involvement,' something they consistently fail to accomplish, but which also falls far short of the environmental justice vision. The environmental justice movement isn't seeking to simply redistribute environmental harms, but to abolish them." Energy Justice Network


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