On October 29, the sustainable systems class attended a talk and engaged in a conversation that was centred around topics like climate citizenship, environmental justice, and the clean power plant. After every speaker shared their 5-10 minute talk I was taken by surprise because of the rich content that they were sharing. Almost all of the topics that were covered that evening, I had little or no knowledge about. One topic that caught my attention was about the history of Environmental Justice [EJ] Movement and how they are trying to impact the world today.
As a brief background – EJ movement are generally championed by African-Americans, Asians, Latinos, Pacific islanders, and Native Americans. This social movement has a goal to focus on fair distribution of environmental benefits and burdens. One of the biggest issues that EJ communities try to tackle is to seek justice for environmental discrimination. Historically, racism and discrimination were major players when determining the most determinant group of a specific span of land. Furthermore, there is an injustice towards non-dominant minorities in the United States resulting in unfair decisions being made on the land of said minorities. Some decisions include location of transportation infrastructures such as airports and highways.
At the talk Cecil Corbin-Mark shared the history about the EJ communities and how they are making an impact today. Cecil is a part of an organization called WE ACT (http://www.weact.org/) whose mission is to “build healthy communities by assuring that people of color and/or low-income participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices.” WE ACT have several programs in order to support their mission statement. At the moment, the WE ACT communities have initiatives in Clean Air, Climate Justice, Healthy Indoor Environments, and Sustainable Land Use.
During Cecil’s conversation with the attendees, I realized that sometimes we tunnel our vision on the word environment. A healthy environment doesn’t always mean a healthy “green” world – sometimes it’s the not only the living environment, but also the social environment that should be healthy. Social and green systems should work harmoniously for us to confidently say that we live in a sustainable environment.