Discovering Environmental Justice, Part 2

This post (read Part 1)was written by one of the Women’s Center staff members and reflects our theme as an organization of exploring environmental justice.

Save Water Shower With a FriendFor simplicity’s sake I’ll call myself an environmentalist, or perhaps I am a good steward of the environment. Either way, what I mean is that I cannot live my life without the one-on-one interaction with nature, and much like a marriage I am committed to doing what ever I need to do to have an honest, genuine, and supportive relationship with nature. For example, I am willing to forfeit certain behaviors, like showering, to conserve water…Just kidding! But, for real, for the environment I am willing to stop or severely restrict my bad habits in order to coexist more healthfully. For instance, I don’t own a car, and am in mad-love with bicycling as it keeps me in sync with the elements, and it really does reduce my impact on the planet (amongst a myriad of other advantages).  Woman on bicycle with text

With all of this being said, I’ve made some legit progressions–and certainly regression at times too–with the way I act out being an “environmentalist.” But up until recently my privilege has aided in my ability to overlook a fundamental element of environmental consciousness: environmental injustice.

Sushi roll made up of non-food substances like plastic bagsEnvironmental injustice can be defined as “a phenomena that occurs in the United States and around the world in which people of color and of lower socio-economic status are disproportionately affected by pollution, the siting of toxic waste dumps, and other Locally Unwanted Land Uses (LULUs).“1 The movement started in the 1980’s and even though environmental injustice still runs rampant throughout the United States and the world, it remains on the hush-hush. However, we are now where we have polluted our environment in such high concentrations that we are polluting ourselves too, and at an alarming rate.  More and more people are finally starting to acknowledge that if we pollute the water, soil and air, than we in-turn poison ourselves and one another. But unfortunately, the people who are suffering the most from such pollutants aren’t the corporations who created the pollution; instead it’s the same members of society who have always faced the most suffering throughout history: women, people of color, and the poor.  Here’s one fact, 9 million U.S. children under 18 have been diagnosed with asthma,2  and the highest numbers of instances are found amongst children of color and/or children who live in low-income neighborhoods, because this is where the highest concentrations of toxins can be found.3 Geeze-la-wheeze!

  • If you are not already aware of environmental justice, pull out 13 minutes of your time and listen to an outstanding TEDx talk by Van Jones who was appointed by Obama as the Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
  • Another great environmental justice advocate is Majora Carter who founded the nonprofit Sustainable South Bronx, where she developed green restoration projects in her neighborhood and one of the nations first green jobs placement program.

Yet another favorite is Winona LaDuke. LaDuke is a Minnesota Native of the Bear Clan from the White Earth Reservation, and has had a life long devotion to fighting against environmental racism and environmental injustice. One of my newfound favorite quotes from LaDuke is this:

Our bodies are a mirror of our mother and of Mother Earth. And so we walk, healthy, beautiful, vibrant, voluptuous through the minefield of industrialism! It is a minefield of toxic chemicals …that poison and entrap our bodies. It is a minefield of laws that justify taking and destroying all that is beautiful, pristine, all that is the integrity of life. It is a minefield of laws that take control even of our own bodies themselves.4

If any of this information moves you to your core, and you wish to learn more about environmental justice, then you should know that the Women’s Center is hosting a event on March 29 entitled “Honoring the Earth, Transforming Our Communities: Winona LaDuke on Environmental Justice.” Awesome, right?!? Go ahead, climb to new heights of critical understanding and examine your own relationship with the natural world, other humans and species on the planet.


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