MLK

Dr. King’s Dream and Environmental Justice

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Reposted from EPA Connect

By Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming

President Obama will mark the anniversary of the March on Washington today at the Lincoln Memorial, the site of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic speech 50 years ago.  As we all reflect on Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and his influence on American society, let’s also celebrate Dr. King’s legacy of social and environmental justice.

Dr. King was a pioneer on many fronts. He fought to raise awareness about urban environmental issues and public health concerns that disproportionately affect communities of color – issues that are still relevant today. We have made tremendous progress in the past 50 years, but our work is not done.

As I reflect on this anniversary, my thoughts go to scripture. I am reminded of the passage from Luke 12:48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

This sentiment of stewardship is what led me to join the Environmental Protection Agency. At the EPA, we work every day to safeguard our environment – the environment with which we have been entrusted – for future generations.

Something we don’t think about often enough is that ensuring basic environmental protections for all is a civil rights issue – one that we have yet to resolve. Our low income and minority neighborhoods suffer disproportionate health impacts, like asthma and heart disease, due to harmful pollution in the air, land and water.

We must work to correct these injustices now as we face one of the great environmental challenges of our time – climate change.

We know that our climate is changing. Extreme weather events like hurricanes, wildfires, floods and drought are becoming more and more common. And low income neighborhoods are disproportionately impacted by extreme weather because of aging infrastructure and limited means to escape the devastation.  Our nation’s poorest communities are already bearing the brunt of this devastation, and will continue to do so if we don’t act now.

President Obama recently announced a Climate Action Plan that calls for us to work together to improve the resiliency of our communities so that we can provide protection to those who need it most.

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, let’s also reflect on Dr. King’s legacy. As Dr. King said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We must redouble our efforts to protect people’s health and the environment in all of our communities.

About the Author: Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming serves as Chief of Staff to the Administrator. Ms. Fleming was appointed by President Obama as Region 4 (Atlanta) Regional Administrator of the EPA in September 2010, the first African-American to hold this position. Previously, she served as the first African-American and first woman DeKalb County District Attorney and Solicitor General. She was the youngest ever elected as Solicitor General. Ms. Fleming is a New Jersey native and earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from Douglass College and she earned her law degree from the Emory University School of Law. Ms. Fleming credits her parents, Ursula Keyes, a retired registered nurse and her late father, Andrew J. Keyes, a former Tuskegee Airman, as the reason for her commitment to community service.

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.

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Go Green on Martin Luther King Day

By Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

“Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve.” Those words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. have inspired millions of Americans over the years to step up and serve. And they’re the words that come to mind each January, when we honor Dr. King’s legacy on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Each year, people across the country come together for volunteer service, to strengthen their communities and make a difference for the people around them.

On Monday, January 16, the EPA is honoring Dr. King by calling on volunteers to participate in environmental service projects and help make it a Green MLK Day. In recent years, I’ve joined EPA employees and community volunteers for neighborhood cleanups, urban greening efforts and other environmental service projects. This year, we’re hoping you will mark the MLK Day of Service with a service project that protects health and the environment in your community.

One way to get involved is to participate in projects that help reduce waste, or cut water and energy use in your home and community. Take a look at our WaterSense, WasteWise and Energy Star websites for more information, or check our Green Living page for ideas.

Young people can help their communities raise awareness and address environmental issues through our OnCampus ecoAmbassadors program. This program helps students develop valuable leadership and project management skills as they improve the quality of their campuses and surrounding communities.

There are countless ways to be part of a Green MLK Day: Start using biodegradable and environmentally friendly cleaning products. Learn about composting and give it a shot in your own backyard. Pick up litter at a local park or field. Organize a “green club” in your workplace, school or community.

EPA’s Pick Five website can help you find simple ways to clean up the environment in which you live, work and play.

Finally – be sure to tell us about your Green MLK activities. EPA Staff will be tweeting live from various volunteer activities, and you can follow along through @EPALive and @lisapjackson on Twitter. Share your own service experience by tweeting with a #greenMLK hashtag. If you have any photos from what you’re doing, we invite you to share them on our Flickr page.

I look forward to hearing about how you spent this year’s MLK Day of Service taking on environmental challenges in your community.

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.

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CommUnity

By Jeanethe Falvey

I live just outside of Boston, but never saw myself as a city mouse. Someday the country will be my happy place again, but for now, I love where I live.

I love supporting small, local shops to buy groceries, coffee, repair clothing; I can easily find recycling and trash bins; environmentally friendly products are available, so I know I’m not harming Boston Harbor at the other end of my apartment’s pipes; I can walk to get just about everything I need and take public transportation to get to work. Best of all, I can breathe a little deeper because others before me were kind enough to build sidewalks that allowed the big trees to get bigger.

Sometimes I like to imagine a map of my day, just like the Family Circus illustrations: little red footsteps of the kids going around the yard, up into the tree house, down the street, in and out of the house. Only I think of mine as green footsteps wherever I’ve been with bright green “poofs!” when I’ve come across someone else doing something for the environment and their little green footsteps trail off in another direction.

Even the smallest efforts for the environment have always felt good and happily I can report there are others like me! In fact, one girl beat me to a plastic bag blowing across the street in downtown Boston a few weeks ago – kept me a whole notch cheerier for the rest of the day (…still actually).

A second ago, someone was a total stranger in a big city; the next, you feel like you’re a part of a community.

I’ve never seen a community service project that wasn’t filled with people smiling; happy to be helping others where they live and making their community a brighter, healthier place to be.

This weekend, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, we hope you’re able to give back and take pride in your community. Find a project where you live. If you join a cleanup event, please share your photos or tweet using #GreenMLK ! I can’t wait to see what you help to accomplish and look forward to featuring your work in a future post.

Watch the world go green with you, tally up the steps you can take to leave your path a little greener.

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey writes from EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education, as the project-lead for Pick 5 and the State of the Environment, two projects geared towards learning, sharing and gaining a greater collective connection to our environment.

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.