Discovering Environmental Justice, Part 1

This post was written by one of the Women’s Center staff members and reflects our theme as an organization of exploring environmental justice.

I learned about pollution and its effects on the environment like many others, through the good ol’ television and the classroom. I remember seeing this commercial, and took it as seriously as my mom telling me not to cook with the pan handle pointed at me, because I could easily flip the hot contents onto myself.

To this day, I don’t leave the water running without a good cause, and absent-mindedness is no good cause.  Then there were movies like Fern Gully, which still conjures up imagery of a fairy whose wings are in a panicked flutter over the future of the rainforest, and the impending doom of chainsaws gone wild on trees that hold special powers. And let’s not forget about the mentally unstable fruit bat, whose run-in with humans left him with experimentation cords coming out of his head!

Around this same time, my classroom did the notorious “Bean Plant Experiment.” After much anticipation, my bean began to transform itself into a gorgeous green little plant, waiting to be nurtured by me with water, still holding onto its shell as a top-hat, introducing itself to the world and showing its readiness to get to work in this thing we call life.  But it was already game over. We were instructed to toss our plants, or take them home: it was time for the next lesson. With my sharpening mind and newly critical eye I became upset with having to throw it away, but also not knowing what to do with it.  I did plant it, but failed at supporting it. In the grander scheme of things, my teacher also “F”ailed.  How dare she prompt us to create a morsel of life, and then completely disregard the plant’s significance, and not connect it to the food we eat (which I’m certain I didn’t have a fresh bean until college), or the air we breathe.  Be the organism a fruity bat or a bean, I learned that one mustn’t approach another’s life without a holistic mindset or in the very least appreciation. Remove the cords from the head, or sink the roots where they belong; finish what you started…it’s called the circle of life (thanks Lion King!).

Although my teacher got an “F” on the bean assignment, she is not alone. On a daily basis we use objects to our advantage and do not consider their complete lifecycle. We dispose of objects without regard to where the materials were extracted from (this goes way beyond reading the label that may state “Made in China”), where the object will end up after it’s used, and what persons or community will be effected by your use of such an object. Of the slogan “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle,” reducing and reusing are key, which is why I give complete props to Krista’s post about reducing the amount of materials purchased and produce, by reusing other’s second hand items, and keeping them out of the landfills.

Visit the blog on Thursday the 23rd for Part 2 of this post, which will focus on defining environmental justice more specifically and identifying resources for those interested in learning more.

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2 thoughts on “Discovering Environmental Justice, Part 1

  1. Pingback: Discovering Environmental Justice, Part 2 « University of Minnesota Women's Center Blog

  2. Pingback: Discovering Environmental Justice, Part 2 « University of Minnesota Women's Center Blog

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