Skip to content

Check out our new Video Series Commemorating 20 years of the Agency Working on Environmental Justice!

2012 June 14

By Charles Lee

Since EPA first started working to advance environmental justice in 1992 by creating the Office of Environmental Equity (later renamed the Office of Environmental Justice), a lot of work has been done to reduce health disparities, improve public engagement, and create healthy, sustainable communities. This work didn’t happen overnight. It took hard work and dedication from organizations, individuals, businesses, and government officials all working to create communities that are healthy places for families to live, learn, work, and play.

After twenty years there is still work to be done, but people are continuing to make progress toward accomplishing it. So, when we in the Office of Environmental Justice decided to do a video series to commemorate the 20 year milestone, we thought the focus should be on the lessons learned from people who have been working in communities over the last 20 years. We asked them how they approach developing solutions to environmental and health issues in communities and we asked which moments in their efforts to advance environmental justice have changed the way that they think about solutions to environmental and health problems in communities. We also asked them to share why these lessons are important for the next generation who will receive the torch and continue to move it forward to achieve the goal of environmental justice.

This video series features people who have been putting “environmental justice in action” for the better part of their lives, as well as people who are just getting involved with the issue, including insight from representatives of non-profit organizations, government officials and students. Our goal is to inspire you with their stories, help transfer their knowledge best practices, and start the conversation about working for environmental justice for the next 20 years.

The first video features Vernice Miller-Travis, who documents the early years of her work to help form the nonprofit West Harlem Environmental Action, Inc. Her message is simple: Sometimes it’s better to use honey instead vinegar. If you treat people with respect, then you get that respect back.

Watch the video, share it, and let us know your thoughts in the comments section. That’s what expanding the conversation on environmental justice is about!

YouTube Preview Image

About the author: Charles Lee is currently EPA’s Deputy Associate Assistant Administrator for Environmental Justice. He is widely recognized as a true pioneer in the arena of environmental justice and helped to create the field. He is the principal author of the landmark 1987 report, Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States. He also spearheaded efforts to establish the EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice and the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, and to issue Executive Order 12898 on environmental justice.

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.

33 Responses leave one →
  1. Charles permalink
    June 14, 2012

    Would be interesting to compare how EPA efforts align with trees. This article about using remote sensing to identify EJ hotspots

  2. Richard permalink
    June 14, 2012

    I had no idea that the issue of Asthma was such a devestating condition in our great country. I like the video format that was used to share not only the issues but what the organization did to address the problem. We need more groups in our country to learn from this organization – let’s not wait on the government to solve our problems – they can assist but not solve! I look forward to future videos. Environmental Justice is definitely a american issues so Republican and Democrats have a role to play. In my research of the issue I learned that Environmental Justice actually started under a Republican Administration, so I hope people we realize that we Republicans do care about this issue…..

  3. Robert S. White permalink
    June 14, 2012

    I found the information that was shared in the video to be very informative. I would like to see videos that talked about the economic benefits to these communities when there environmental concerns are addressed. I grew up in the rust belt, so I know it can be tough to attract businesses when there are too many negatives in a neighborhood and that is why I am a big supporter of the Brownfields work and how it helps to revitalize communities and attract new businesses. I’m beginning to see environmental justice in a new light.

  4. Robert S. White permalink
    June 14, 2012

    Posted on the wrong blog -reposting:

    One follow up question/comment – Do local planning boards and business council’s play a role in environmental justice? It seems that they could do alot to help spur economic growth.

  5. June 14, 2012

    Thanks for this empowering video. We would like to see one in the future related to farmworkers and pesticides. Our Lake Apopka farmworker community is composed of farmworkers and a community facing other environmental stressors. We just want to ensure that the issue of farmworkers and pesticides is included and is on everyone’s radar screen, as well.

    Thank you.

    • kolp permalink*
      June 19, 2012

      Jeannie, we will definitely look into developing a post about pesticides, agriculture and farmworkers in the future. Thanks for the suggestion!

  6. June 14, 2012

    We would like to see issues of farmworkers and pesticide exposure included in the EJ issues addressed.

  7. June 15, 2012

    I too had no idea that there was such a problem with Asthma in a localized area in the United States. When she said that “we had the highest rate of Asthma in the Western hemisphere” my heart dropped. As a father, I am SO very thankful that agencies like the Office of Environmental Justice are in place now. I implore the people to vote so that we do not loose government programs like this one.

  8. June 15, 2012

    The Good Force be with you!

    Happy 20 years of Environmental Justice EPA! Keep up the good work!

    Live forever and prosper!

  9. Susan wright permalink
    June 18, 2012

    This Blog has some excellent articles. I really like the video and the positive message that it is sharing. Great idea to use video’s to engage thinking around these important issues.

    Susan R. Wright

  10. Rev. William Johnson permalink
    June 18, 2012

    Very effective video!!! I love the message. I had a chance to view it this past week at a youth graduation that Mr. Ali presented at and gave some inspiring words to the graduates. I’m very impressed with the collaboration message and the engagement with local citizens that seems to be happening. Keep up the good work and continue to share these positive stories.

    Rev. William Johnson

  11. Cindy Lee permalink
    June 18, 2012

    Great Idea and Great Video!!! As a recent graduate would love to see a video focused on youth and how jobs have been created. This is a great tool to connect with my generation.

    • kolp permalink*
      June 19, 2012

      Cindy, we have a post that we will be featuring very soon involving a youth jobs development program. Keep an eye out for it!

  12. Susan permalink
    June 18, 2012

    A friend introduced me to this video on facebook and the EJ concept. I like the video very much….. I’m still learning so this is helpful.

  13. Thomas Robinson permalink
    June 20, 2012

    Love the video and the message. It’s about time that a government actually creates a message that is easy to understand and makes sense to the common man.

  14. Wendy - The Science Girl permalink
    June 21, 2012

    What a great video! I plan on using it in my Science classes in the Fall. I’m glad it was created and look forward to seeing the rest of the series. Does EPA have any initiatives with Science teachers to enhance curriculum?

  15. Charlie permalink
    June 21, 2012

    Very well done and great information! Hopefully it will help everyone understand the issues better.

  16. Roger permalink
    June 21, 2012

    Great Design – Great Story – Great Video.

  17. Amy Sandusky permalink
    June 22, 2012

    Powerful video that tells a story not only of the impacts but also the successes that can be achieved when we get everyone involved in solutions.

  18. Amy Sandusky permalink
    June 23, 2012

    Shared the video with my book club and they enjoyed it also. A question came up about what other Federal Agencies are doing to fix these problems?

  19. William Ryder permalink
    July 13, 2012

    Great Video series you have going. These videos are very informative and I like that you have different perspectives and experiences being highlighted. I look forward to the next one in your series.

  20. Hector permalink
    July 13, 2012

    Great Video !!! I learned alot about Asthma rates and it was god to see a community organization that was able to bring change to their neighborhood.

  21. Katherine permalink
    July 13, 2012

    Great video with a Great message- Good job EPA!

  22. Doug permalink
    July 13, 2012

    This is a very powerful video with an excellent message. As a filmaker I was very impressed with the story and the quality. Continue the good work and sharing lessons on positive change.


  23. Roy Lee permalink
    July 18, 2012

    All I can say is fantastic video….Love the message.

  24. Maria permalink
    July 27, 2012

    What a well done video with a very engaging story. If more people knew about situations like this it would make a huge difference in the way we deal with environmental impacts. This was the best 3 minutes and 41 seconds I have invested in a long time.

    Maria O.

  25. José Luis Martinez permalink
    August 23, 2012

    Thank you for the high effective video, as an environmental educator, this can be a powerful tool to discuss EJ with students and teachers.


    José Luis

  26. Robert Regan permalink
    October 23, 2012

    This is an incredible story. I’m glad I had the opportunity to hear about the great work that was accomplished in NY. Thank you for sharing some of the steps that were taken to get to a collaborative resolution of a tough issues. As a doctor, I know first hand the impacts Asthma can have on a family.

    Dr. Regan

  27. Jimmy permalink
    March 7, 2013

    I really like this one. Very engaging story.

  28. Deborah permalink
    May 3, 2013

    I love your video series it is very educational. I hope these videos will packaged into some form of a training, to help others understand the plethora of injustices that are happening and how communities and others are addressing them.

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS