Environmentalism

Help Us Map Environmental Justice Conflicts in the United States

Untitled-2

By Alejandro Colsa, Bernadette Grafton, Katy Hintzen, and Sara Orvis

As students at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and the Environment we consider ourselves lucky to be part of an institution that has played a major role in the historic evolution of the United States environmental justice movement. Coming from different backgrounds, the four of us have found environmental justice to be a unifying passion.

Untitled-1

Click to find out more about the EJOLT Project

When we first encountered the Environmental Justice Organizations, Liability and Trade (EJOLT) project we recognized its potential to further global collaboration among EJ activists and scholars. The EJOLT project allows us to explore a wide array of environmental justice issues, giving us a richer understanding of what environmental justice is and how it’s been manifested in the United States. At the same time, EJOLT provides us with the opportunity to be part of an exciting new movement towards increased international collaboration in environmental justice.

EJOLT is an international project that aims to map environmental justice conflicts around the world. EJOLT has reported on and analyzed environmental conflicts in more than 60 countries, including India, Ecuador, Mexico, and South Africa. Cases like the Map of Environmental Injustices in Turkey have made headlines in mainstream media. However, environmental justice cases in the U.S. have not yet been integrated into this international effort.

With the help of our two academic advisors, Professor Rebecca Hardin and Professor Paul Mohai, we reached out to the EJOLT project coordinator Professor Joan Martinez Alier and offered to spearhead an effort to identify and analyze 40 influential U.S. environmental justice case studies to contribute to EJOLT.

This is where we need your help! Choosing 40 case studies to represent the environmental justice movement and its historical development in the United States is a monumental task. We decided to create a public survey that engages the wider U.S. environmental justice community and harnesses the expertise of scholars, activists, and citizens like you to help determine which case studies are included in this database.

We need your help identifying which conflicts should be included in this project. If you would like to participate, please fill out our 5-to-10 minute survey. When answering the following questions, please keep in mind that we are not asking you to rank the case studies. All of the case studies have been divided into 10 categories defined by EJOLT.  Each category also provides an option to write-in any case studies that are not in this survey, but you feel should be included.

In order to make the survey shorter and more manageable, we have created two survey options. If you were born on a day ending with an even number please use this survey link, and if you were born on a day ending with an odd number please use this survey link. The survey will only be open through August 23rd, so make sure and take soon. Thanks for your collaboration!

About the authors:

Alejandro Colsa is a Master’s student at the University of Michigan SNRE specializing in Environmental Justice. After spending some years learning how Environmental Justice is understood and studied in Europe, this Spanish graduate student has received a Fulbright scholarship to conduct research and study how the environmental justice movement was originated in the United States and how it can be framed within the broader and more international environmental justice movement, paying special attention to the role played by strong community activism.

Bernadette Grafton is a Master’s student at the University of Michigan SNRE specializing in Behavior, Education, and Communication. She has a strong interest in brownfield redevelopment and community engagement that has led her to an understanding of the tight relationship between brownfields and environmental justice issues, primarily because of the location of many brownfield sites.   

Katy Hintzen is a Master’s student at the University of Michigan SNRE specializing in Environmental Policy and Planning and Environmental Justice. Her interest in studying the intersections between public policy and community activism stem from her time as a Peace Corps volunteer working on environmental conservation issues in the Ecuadorian Amazon.        

Sara Orvis is a Master’s student at the University of Michigan SNRE specializing in Environmental Justice. She is interested in the unique problems associated with rural environmental justice especially surrounding Indian Nations culture and traditions and the government to government relationships affect the mitigation of environmental justice sources. 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Reclaiming Your Environmentalism

Image-01C64281E33211D9

By Fred Tutman

People ask me almost everyday why more African-Americans are not environmentalists. My usual answer is, “who says we are not?”  Yet everyday I meet people who seem to think that being an environmentalist of color is some sort of novelty. Nothing could be farther from the truth! My heritage with the environment like many other people of color sets a strong foundation for environmental stewardship. To my great fortune, I grew up in a rural stretch of Maryland’s Patuxent River corridor. The four corners of my world, and my playgrounds were collectively the wind, sun, sky, the forests and of course the nearby river. As a boy I gigged frogs, hunted imaginary wolves with tobacco sticks, and I collected and sold Japanese beetles to my great grandfather at a penny a bug. Among my warmest boyhood memories were at dusk with my great grandfather where he and I walked through the gloom of the woods, or sat on fallen logs waiting for deer; where the silence was a sort of like being in a church.

 
Untitled-1So my people and I were tied to nature and the earth’s rhythms on many levels. Were we environmentalists? Sadly, many do not regard indigenous people as such. But we had a heritage of self-sufficiency on the land, of growing our own food, of continuing a family tradition of being in grace with our surroundings. We were in a perpetually renewing contract with mother earth and thought of ourselves simply as those specially favored by nature.

Throughout my conservation career, I have worked around environmentalists eager to teach the rest of us how to live and love nature in their own image. And perhaps many of us from various walks do need to be reconnected to the earth—but there are just as many who happen to be absent from mass environmental causes who already have a rich heritage with the earth.

Truly we all have very different context for the environment. And it seems to me that is exactly what diversity means. There is no reason one must join a club or carry a membership card in order to claim status as an environmentalist. The many expressions of our individual environmental connections are as unique and as personal as our fingerprints and yet this truism easily gets overlooked. That is exactly why more ethnic and cultural inclusion is so desperately needed in the environmental movement. Because we each need to claim the full environmental heritage to which we are each entitled.

Untitled-2

The stories of our individual ties to the environment are rich, layered, textured, powerful and empowering.  Much more layered than the simplistic and very misguided notion that “black people don’t care or know about the environment.” So in my view, the environmental movement doesn’t just need to embrace “diversity.” Instead people need to understand first and foremost that the many faces of environmentalism actually ARE diversity. Only then can we look at relative social justice and fairness with an honest and appraising eye. Deeper respect for the environmental context held dear by people of all walks and ethnicities is the only way environmental movements will ever reach their full inclusive potential.

Fred Tutman has served for ten years as the Riverkeeper for the Patuxent, which is Maryland’s longest and deepest intrastate river. 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Rachel Carson and Expanding the Conversation on Environmentalism

Haga clic en la imagen para unirse a la conversación en nuestro blog en español... ¡No olvide de suscribirse!

Cross-posted from the Administrator’s Blog

By Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of ecologist Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking 1962 book Silent Spring. By 1970, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was established.

That’s no coincidence.

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring launched the modern-day environmental movement and changed the world we live in.

In her book, Carson discussed the widespread and detrimental use of certain pesticides – especially DDT, a toxin that almost wiped out our national symbol, the bald eagle. EPA banned the use of that pesticide in 1972.

Rachel Carson’s writing helped Americans see the connections between their health and the health of the environment. Her efforts helped ignite the conversation on environmentalism in America.

One of my priorities as administrator of EPA has been to continue what Rachel began by working to expand the conversation on environmentalism. Bringing people together around environmental issues is essential. We want mothers and fathers to know how important clean air, water and land are to their health and the health of their children. We want to continue to engage African Americans and Latinos and expand the conversation on environmental challenges, so we can address health disparities resulting from pollution that affects low-income and minority communities. Environmental justice will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.

Though we’ve made a great deal of progress since Silent Spring, we still have much work to do. Heart disease, cancer and respiratory illnesses are three of the top four most fatal health threats in America. They account for more than half of the deaths in the nation – and all three have been linked to environmental causes. Environmental issues are critical health issues, and we need all Americans to participate in this conversation.

Rachel Carson helped show many Americans that, though they may not think of themselves as environmentalists, environmental issues invariably play a role in their health and in the future of the nation.

Her message remains as true and as critical today as it was 50 years ago.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA Celebrates National Public Health Week April 4-11, 2011

By  Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

When we talk about environmentalism, it typically brings to mind sweeping vistas and wide-open landscapes. Some people might think of saving the whales, protecting spotted owls or preserving old-growth forests. Those things are critically important – but they only tell part of the story. When the modern environmental movement got its start in the 1960s, it took hold in our nation’s cities and was led by people concerned about pollution in the air they were breathing, toxins in the water they were drinking and chemicals on the food they were eating.

The effort to safeguard our environment started – and continues to be – an effort to safeguard our health.

April 4-11 is National Public Health Week, and the EPA is sending a clear message: Environmental protection is public health protection. It is family protection and community protection. It is about safeguarding people in the places where they live, work, play, and learn.

Each and every day, the people of this agency step up to protect the air we breathe, the water that flows into our communities and the land where we build our communities. These are things the American people expect and deserve – whether it’s the everyday protection of air and water, or a response to situations like the Japan nuclear incident, where EPA monitoring of radiation levels is keeping all of us aware and ready to respond if needed.

The environmental standards that EPA sets have prevented hundreds of thousands of premature deaths annually and provide the American people with some $22 trillion in health benefits. What those statistics really mean is that the buses taking our kids to school no longer put dangerous lead emissions into the air. When you pour yourself a glass of water, you can be confident it will be free of harmful levels of chemicals. And when you buy an apple at the store, it hasn’t been sprayed with arsenic-based pesticides – like they were decades ago.

This year, Public Health Week comes on the heels of an important advance in EPA’s health protection work. We recently proposed the first-ever national Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for power plants – reasonable standards that will require American power plants to utilize pollution control technologies that cut harmful emissions of mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel and acid gases. These pollutants have been linked to neurological problems, developmental disorders in our children, respiratory illnesses and other costly health challenges.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards proposal initiates an effort that – through the commonsense goal of reducing harmful pollution in the air we breathe – will save thousands of lives and spare hundreds of thousands from illnesses. We estimate that the widespread adoption of pollution control technology would prevent 17,000 premature deaths and 11,000 heart attacks, while also avoiding 120,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms and ensuring about 11,000 fewer cases of acute bronchitis among children each year. It’s an important reminder of the critical role the EPA plays in safeguarding our health and our children’s health.

Our challenge is to make these health issues a larger part of our environmental conversation. We want to establish the connection that clean air means less asthma, that reducing pollution in our water reduces pollution in our bodies, and that stronger chemical management means safer products for us and our children. That way, environmental protection can serve as “an ounce of prevention” to safeguard the health of millions of Americans.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmtZqcimt0E[/youtube]

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Having the Environmental Conversation: I Didn’t Think It Started Here

By Blaine Collison

Seventeenth Street in Washington, DC, where it crosses the National Mall, is one of the prettiest streets in America. Stand in the middle of 17th and turn one full revolution and you’ll see the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the White House and stands of trees all in between. On a summer evening – like tonight – the area is full of tourists and locals, all out enjoying the Nation’s Capital.

I was commuting home on my bike – my colleagues and I appreciate EPA’s bike facilities every single day that we use them – and I followed a car down 17th Street, across the National Mall. The passenger stuck his hand out of the window and I could see a nearly-finished cigarette. I got a bad feeling about what was going to happen: Sure enough, the passenger dropped his butt onto the street right between the Monument and World War II Memorial.

I’ve seen this plenty of times before, but lately I’ve grown tired of resigned acceptance. I caught up to the car at the next light and had a conversation that went like this:

Hi. You dropped your cigarette on the street.

What? No.

Yes, you did.

No.

You dropped it right there on 17th Street at the light. By the World War II Memorial.

So what?

Well…why? That’s not where it goes.

What?!?

That’s not where it goes. No one wants your trash on our streets. Why’d you put it there? Why not just put it in the trash?

That’s where I [colorful adverb] put it!

Yeah, but why? It’s just going to go into the [Potomac] river.

‘Cause that’s where I [repeated colorful adverb] put it!

But no one wants your trash on the street.

Well, clean up the [adjective form of the previously-used colorful adverb] street!

It would be easier to do that if you wouldn’t drop cigarette butts on it.

The light changed and the exchange ended. No one had called each other a name or made a threat, but it also didn’t seem like anyone had made any progress.

One of EPA Administrator Jackson’s key strategic priorities is “Expanding the Conversation”; bringing into the environmental protection process people and stakeholders that have not traditionally been part of it. I’m pretty sure that I had a conversation tonight with one of those folks. Not dropping trash on the street is more basic even than Environmentalism 101. And this was the National Mall. It’s sacred American public space. That we need to have a conversation at this level…

I’m still frustrated and amazed by this. But tomorrow, I’m going to try a little harder. And I’m going to reach out a little further.

No more butts on the National Mall, please. It’s simply not acceptable. Demand better of ourselves and each other. Now and every single day that follows.

About the author: Blaine Collison is the Director of the Green Power Partnership, EPA’s national voluntary green electricity program. The GPP includes more than 1,200 organizations that actively engaged in expanding the conversation and creating more U.S. renewable energy.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Science Wednesday: I’m an American and Environmental Protection was “My” Idea

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

The genius behind the Microsoft advertising slogan, “I’m a PC and Windows 7 was my idea,” is that it takes a basic, nonspecific truth—companies use customer feedback when updating their products—and gives it a brand-specific identity. Whether Windows 7 was developed with more user input than were other versions is besides the point. More important is that users feel ownership over the product because Microsoft made their contributions central to its Windows 7 roll-out campaign. The clever way the TV commercials do this is to have individuals claim they personally invented Windows 7, while we all know that many people had a hand in creating the product.

JeffMorrisPortrait-2010As a nation, let’s send a similar message with environmental protection. One can debate whether the roots of environmentalism can be traced back solely to the United States, since global movements nearly always have multiple origins. Yet history is clear that over the past several decades U.S. leadership has been central to the development of the environmental protection laws and practices that exist today around the world.

The value of communicating that environmental protection is an American idea is not in selling the rest of the world on the notion of U.S. environmental leadership, but rather is in reminding ourselves that taking responsibility for safeguarding the air, water, and land on which all life depends is part of who we are as Americans. We as a nation are all about stepping up to responsibilities with a positive, can-do attitude that is not content with accepting how things are, but rather demands forward movement toward what can be. 40 years ago we didn’t just create an EPA: we articulated a vision for the world of what a clean and healthy environment could be. With that vision we built an environmental protection “operating system” that for decades served us reasonably well.

Today we face new and complex environmental challenges. However, new thinking and advances in technology provide opportunities to address those challenges. Central to this new thinking is a growing recognition that environmental sustainability is an essential element of future prosperity and well-being. These challenges and opportunities require that we upgrade our environmental protection OS to version 2.0. It’s appropriate that the roll-out begin here. After all, we are Americans and we are proud to join others in claiming that environmentalism was our idea.

About the author: Jeff Morris is National Program Director for Nanotechnology Research in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Discussing the Discussion

My job provides a lot of opportunities to meet with people face-to-face. I’ve met with environmental justice advocates in New Orleans, mayors affected by auto sector closures in the Midwest, and tribal representatives in Montana, just to name a few. It’s all part of Administrator Jackson’s directive to expand the conversation on environmentalism. But no matter how much I travel, no matter how many people I meet, it’s impossible for me to meet in person with everyone who wants to talk to me. That’s why I’m excited that technology is making it possible for anyone in the county to participate in the conversation about the environment.

My office held our second Video Town Hall two weeks ago, and I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion. The session covered two topics: reducing your carbon footprint through reducing, reusing, and recycling, and EPA’s recent decision to conduct an environmental justice analysis of the definition of the solid waste rule. We had an excellent conversation. We answered a question from a man in California who wanted to see us do more to promote energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs, and one from a Minnesota woman who wanted to build an environmentally-friendly house. A Brooklyn non-profit wanted to know how we balance our focus on environmental justice with preserving industrial jobs and the tax base in urban areas. These are just a few examples, and you can watch the whole session on our Video Town Hall page.

As was the case with our first Video Town Hall, we were able to answer every question we received on the topics we were discussing. That’s gratifying to me. Anyone who had an internet connection or a phone could ask me a question. That didn’t used to be possible, and I’m glad that technology is enabling people outside of Washington to speak directly with their government.

We plan to hold more Video Town Halls in the near future. Check our Video Town Hall page for future sessions.

About the author: Mathy Stanislaus is EPA’s Assistant Administrator for the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response.
This blog is part of an ongoing series about the EPA’s efforts toward the Open Government Directive that lays out the Obama Administration’s commitment to Open Government and the principles of transparency, participation and collaboration.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Question of the Week: What does “environmentalism” mean to you?

Some people put plastic sheets on the windows for the winter to stay warm. Some do it to save money on the electric bill. Some do it to conserve resources and protect the planet.

What does “environmentalism” mean to you?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.