A recent victory by activists in the Georgia Sea Islands to preserve their community is one example of the many and, I’ll submit, strategic challenges that confront the fastest-growing movement that involves people of color in the country today the environmental justice movement.
Race, Poverty & the Environment readers are accustomed to reading about the latest EJ victories: in
As we continue to wreak destruction upon the Earth and upon each other, we are reaching a point where our actions are having dire consequences. We have embarked upon a market system that not only ravishes the Earth, but it diminishes the value of the lives of Earth's people. It is an out of control market system - a market system that extends into and shapes our personal lives, our consciousness, and the way in which we relate to one another. In our most intimate relations we often perceive one another as having instrumental value. That is, we view our friends in terms of what they can do for us-not what we can do for them or what both parties gain from the friendship.
Many environmental justice leaders and organizers consider the EJ Movement to be a direct descendant of civil rights struggles or the latest manifestation of the justice campaigns that peaked in the 60s and 70s. What have we learned from the successes and failures of the Civil Rights Movement? RPE asked longtime activist and EJ champion Damu Smith to offer his insights.
RPE: What are some key lessons the Environmental Justice Movement has gained from the Civil Rights Movement?
KQED News 4-20-2007 (mp3 4.3 mb 9minutes 14 seconds)
KQED reports on Environmental Justice Movement for Earth Day f rom the 1982 demonstration against PCB landfill in Warren County, North Carolina to Urban Habitat's advocacy in Richmond, California. Program features, among others, Robert Bullard, Bradley Angel and Urban Habitat Executive Director, Juliet Ellis.
On Saturday, March 17th, the Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports, a coalition of labor, environmental, community, and faith groups, held a Town Hall Meeting on the growing trucking crisis at the Port of Oakland. Held in the West Oakland community which is adjacent to the Port, the forum drew 300 participants who voiced concerns over the extensive diesel pollution, sweatshop conditions for drivers, and lack of jobs for surrounding West Oakland residents.
Port truckers testified to poverty wages, lack of health care, 10-14 hour workdays, and abuse at work. Community residents and environmental leaders addressed the fact that diesel fumes are contributing to West Oakland having the highest asthma hospitalization rate in California, with 20% of K-12 children suffering from the disease. Many participants, including Oakland Assemblyman, Sandré Swanson, spoke about how the Port needs to establish standards for the trucking industry, ensure that trucking jobs are quality jobs, and then make sure those jobs benefit Oakland residents, especially those in neighborhoods surrounding the Port.
The Port’s Executive Director, Omar Benjamin, and other senior Port officials were also in attendance. Town Hall participants urged Benjamin to use the Port’s status as landlord to establish oversight, and create labor, local hire, and environmental standards for trucking companies operating on Port property as is done in other Port industries. Though Benjamin fell short of adopting such a measure, he committed to work with the Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports and members of the community to find a solution to the environmental and jobs issues plaguing the trucking industry and the West Oakland area.
Five Good to Reasons to Oppose Proposition 1B:
Ben Jesse Clarke: New Orleans stands as an all-too-powerful example of what the future may hold if we fail to advance progressive alternatives to the ongoing planned disaster of current models of economic development. In looking at global economic situations, it is clear that we need to promote green economic development as a significant part of the solution, both for climate change and rebuilding, in the wake of disasters. But how can this solution be integrated with historic equity challenges faced by low-income people in communities of color in the distribution of public and private resources?
A Look at the Long Road to Environmental Justice (Vol. 10, No. 1: Summer 2003)
This issue of Race, Poverty and the Environment both celebrates the EJ Movement and offers a critique of it. At this critical point in EJ history, RPE takes a big-picture look at the Movement's past, present and future. In the "Looking Back" section, three articles explore the relationship between EJ and the Civil Rights Movement, examining lessons learned from liberation struggles of the 60s and 70s, as well as failures and missteps to avoid. With this hindsight and analysis, the EJ Movement has the potential to be even more powerful and effective than the social change struggles that preceded it. Another article delves into the tensions between EJ and the environmental movement. The section ends with a review of key milestones in the Movement's history.