Looking through the Lens of Environmental Justice

Looking through the Lens of Environmental Justice

December 2, 2020


Katrina, I was interested in your introduction of Wright's ideas that violence against black people should be included in the environmental threats they face. In high school, I used to wonder why environmental organizations would so strongly take up racial justice causes. I naively thought that they could simply focus on environmental justice through environmental conservation issues. What I grew to see as I became more educated is that solidarity against violence and hate towards minorities is essential to cohesive environmental progress. While many of us fear the realities of a more hostile natural environment due to compromising of our ecological resources, too many people already live in a world where their environment is hostile because of the people around them. An increasingly hostile natural environment would compound that already existing threat for communities who already suffer a higher rate of violence against them. In order to create a society that is equitable, as you illustrate with the can of beans example, we must address all sources of violence. Only through creating equal safety, security, and respect can we create a world in which everyone is equitably able to engage with improving the health of our natural environment. Thank you for the thoughtful and thought-provoking blog.

Katrina, Your blog is so heartfelt, well referenced and interesting. I love that you brought up Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter From Birmingham Jail--it is a really great piece of American literature. My friend Randy Olson, who recently published a book entitled "Narrative is Everything: The ABT Framework and Narrative Evolution", uses King's famous "I have a dream" speech as an example of superb narrative, using the ". . . and . . . but . . . therefore . . ." structure. It turns out that King's Letter From Birmingham Jail also has strong narrative structure, in addition to being a well articulated and compelling argument for nonviolent civil disobedience. I also liked the reference to the Cambridge demonstrations. There is a wonderful book that I recently came across about the civil rights demonstrations in Cambridge, Maryland where our Horn Point Laboratory is located. Note, I did not say "Cambridge riots", because the book dispels that notion thoroughly. The book is entitled "The Struggle is Eternal: Gloria Richardson and Black Liberation" by Joseph Fitzgerald, published in 2019. It provides the historical context of the African American community in Cambridge as well as a thoroughly researched description of what transpired in the summer of 1963. The reference to redlining was excellent, and I like the graphic that you selected. The issue of climate change impacts on environmental racism is profound and becomes more apparent every day. I love the way that you end your blog with Ghandi's quote about living the change you want to see and the generational (your generation, in particular) challenge and opportunity. By getting to know you and your classmates over this semester, I am encouraged that you will indeed meet this grand challenge of developing a sustainable future in the face of climate change. 

"Brava" on the blog, Katrina. It seems that we are confronting the issues with realizing civil rights and environmental justice that have been articulated by leaders such as the late MLK, Jr., et al., and mobilized by activists and organizers, some of whom have gone on to public service in higher office (e.g., the 44th President of these United States of America, and the Vice President-elect for the next administration). The scope of environmental justice, compounded by climate change, seems truly enormous and imposing, in the face of institutionalized practices that perpetuate poverty, militarism, and racism. We have seen the resurgence of those values in recent years not only in the United States but abroad as well, and to an extent there appear to be common drivers of displacement, dispossession, exclusion, and marginalization of many communities in the name of markets and progress. The extension of capital markets facilitated by national governments, e.g. through the expansion of commodity crops relevant to my current research, highlights many of those themes with social and environmental justice implications.

We definitely need to re-evaluate how to achieve more inclusive and equitable arrangements to redress these structural and systemic issues. I am less certain about the potential for reaching agreement on compensation and restitution for past harms, i.e. justice delayed is justice denied (but that is not to suggest affected communities should not still try to do so). Hopefully we can start moving things forward in the right direction, as society ties to adapt to continuing adversity (e.g., the ongoing pandemic which seems to be spreading exponentially in the absence of coordinated containment actions, due to continuing failures of leadership at multiple levels). I am confident that women of color will continue to lead this charge, and that you can contribute meaningfully in this regard. Thanks for your perspective on these important issues. I am hopeful that women of color will continue to lead these efforts on behalf of the many and varied disadvantaged communities.

Katrina, thanks for helping recap the thought-provoking lecture before thanksgiving! I have to admit, before this discussion on environmental justice, the term environmental justice is a very vague term that I felt it included many environmental-social issues that are innate to the society and hard to eradicate. But the course discussion helped me to understand more specifically about when, where, across what scale, and at what format environmental injustice can take place, but more importantly, how to approach this challenge. The solutions lie within empowering the community representation, participation in the decision-making process, encouraging experience/strategy sharing in gaining recognition among the communities, and more importantly everyone has to be aware of the environmental justice issues. Not only do people who suffer from the environmental injustice have to be aware and act for their rights, but also other parties, from the policy makers, media workers, to the scientists and researchers. It would be more effective and would lead to profound changes when everyone if involved. -Amber

This was a great recap of the environmental justice lecture we had a few weeks back. I have recently been getting much more into environmental justice, and it is something I hope to pursue in my career. I have been learning in my other classes about the various forms this takes shape in, including disparities in medical care within the same community in places like Norco, LA for example and even the various walkability of areas depending on who has lived there historically. This discussion was a great next step in understanding how to minimize these gaps and move forward. Kirk brings up a great point that women of color in particular are essential in this movement towards environmental justice, and this is being seen in other parts of the world as well where underrepresented women in particular are being empowered to make more change as they are seen as the backbone of society in numerous ways.

Your good background information with thought impress me a lot through other kind of justice except environmental! Although the topic of justice or equality is receiving a lot of attention, as we are aware, everyone’s adaptability to the current society is different. Management system prefer some people in ways of doing things, habits, etc. This group of people would have more advantages. But under such circumstances, stressing that everyone gets the same should be another manifestation of unfairness. Justice/ fairness is a very difficult thing to achieve. If everyone gets the same thing, then everyone will not have the motivation to make themselves more'adapted', and there will not be many ideas for progress, just like a stagnant pool. Fairness should be a target that everyone is pursuing. It is a reward, and it is used to promote the progress of everyone, not the ultimate goal (just like Heaven), it is unachievable. we never guarantee that everyone’s treatment and income are the same, even though they are in the same the company.