Agreeing on defined terms is imperative for any informed discussion. Whether it be for political education, organizing your neighborhood or mobilizing your community, terminology will play a key role in your deliberations.
That’s why we’ll be examining and discussing these terms with the community on a monthly basis beginning this week.
Although the term was coined in the 1980s – the environmental justice movement has its roots in the ancestral work that land and water protectors have fought since the United States forced removal of American Indian and Indigenous people. As well as the fight for self-determination from forced enslaved African people. Environmental justice was a term born in the 1980s after a Black community in Warren County, North Carolina fought back against their government who wanted to place a toxic waste landfill inside of their neighborhood.
The fight over exposure to toxic PCB soil led to over 500 community members being arrested for mobilizing the sit-in to halt the construction trucks from coming into their neighborhood to break ground for the project. The movement for environmental justice continued to gain recognition as more communities fought against racist land use.
In October 1991 the first multinational People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit was held in Jemez, New Mexico. From that summit, 17 principles of environmental justice were developed based on anti colonial working class solidarity and racial justice. They were officially known as the Jemez Principles. The EJ movement, also derived from the civil rights movement, would come to overlap with anti-war and labor efforts, with workers of all types standing up against unsafe working conditions .
Hear what Environmental Justice means to our staff in their own words:
“Environmental justice is the fight against the designed and intentional planning of hazardous, toxic and dangerous sites next to communities, disproportionally BIPOC. It is also the belief that we all have the ability to breathe, live and thrive without environmental burdens” – Andrea
“Is a set of principles that affirms the sacredness of Mother Earth, mandates the right to ethical,
balanced and responsible uses of land and renewable resources, and also declares the fundamental right to political, economic, cultural and environmental self-determination of all peoples.” – Andres
“The ability for BIPOC communities to live in a regenerative, holistic society, where extraction is an afterthought and restoring healing of both the earth and people is priority” – Anthony
“The right to live in anti-colonial and anti-capitalist communities, and protect the lands from environmental degradation, exploitation, and extraction to restore accountability to affected communities.” – Dee
“The rectification of environmental racism. Stopping and undoing of pollution in the spaces of people of color.” -Hakan
Follow the links below for more resources: