Posts Tagged ‘environmental justice’

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By Dajah Massey

In recognition of Black History Month, DC EcoWomen celebrates the following eight women for their accomplishments in environmental spaces, their advocacy for the African American community, and their continued impact in the Washington, D.C. area.

Josephine Butler

Josephine Butler confronts DC Mayor Marion Barry, 1978 – photo and caption from https://washingtonparks.net/josephine-butler/

Josephine Butler was born in 1920 in Maryland. She was the daughter of sharecroppers and granddaughter of slaves. Butler moved to D.C. for medical treatment and then became a community leader, environmental activist, and social change agent in the District. Butler started America’s first union of black female laundry workers and was a major contributor to the desegregation of schools. Butler helped to transform Malcolm X Park, also known as Meridian Hill Park, from one of the most dangerous parks in D.C. to a beautiful oasis by planting trees, providing nighttime neighborhood watches, and hosting community education events. 

In a time when environmentalism was not popular, Butler served as a community health educator for the American Lung Association in D.C. and taught thousands of children about the effects of air pollution. In 1995, she served on the D.C. Coordinating Committee for the International Women’s Year. Butler also became a representative on the Mayor’s Health Planning Advisory Committee and served on the D.C. Human Rights Commission. Today the Josephine Butler Parks Center, which overlooks Meridian Hill Park, stands in her honor. 

Click here to learn more about Butler. 

Rue Mapp

Photo from https://outdoorafro.com/team/

Rue Mapp is the founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro, a nonprofit organization that connects African Americans with outdoor experiences and aims to change the narrative of who engages in the outdoors. Outdoor Afro has offices in Washington D.C. and Oakland, California. The organization has selected and trained 80 national volunteers and created leadership teams in 30 states – building a powerful network to nurture a community of black outdoor enthusiasts. Mapp first launched Outdoor Afro as a blog in 2009. The organization now has national sponsors and worldwide recognition. Mapp serves on several conservation boards, was part of the team that launched Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative, and was appointed program officer for the Stewardship Council’s Foundation for Youth Investment.  She also organized the first all-Black U.S. expedition team to climb Kilimanjaro, the world’s highest freestanding peak. Her proudest accomplishment is being a mother of three. 

Brittany Leavitt

Photo from https://www.britleavitt.com/

Brittany Leavitt is a D.C. influencer — not the social media type, but a real-life changemaker. Leavitt is influencing her community and shaping the minds of D.C.’s youth by teaching preschoolers at the Smithsonian Museum about the natural world. She has also partnered with the North Face and the Girl Scouts to create a new adventure badge that young girls can earn. In addition to mentorship, she is a REI instructor and leads climbing, backpacking, and hiking classes. Her purpose is to build spaces for Blacks, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) to enjoy the outdoors. Brittany was part of the Outdoor Afro first all-black climbing group to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. Through her variety of partnerships, she is diversifying the climbing community. 

Kari Fulton

Photo from https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4693971/user-clip-climate-change-protest

Kari Fulton may be young, but her accomplishments and contributions to the environmental movement are not adolescent. She co-founded the Loving Our City, Loving Ourselves (LOCLOS) campus and community initiative, to build stronger campus and community solidarity on issues of concern in the Washington, D.C. area. She served as the Energy Action Coalition Campus Climate Challenge Coordinator for the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative. She supported and trained hundreds of young people at more than 50 universities, and has become a pioneer organizer working to build up the youth climate movement amongst young people of color, in particular, students at historically black colleges and universities. She is currently a Class of 2020 National Urban Fellow at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy, and a Master of Public Management candidate, as well as a Policy Fellow with the Climate Justice Alliance. 

Fulton said: “My hope was for people of color and low-income individuals to get information that will help them take advantage of the growing green movement so that they are not left behind economically or environmentally.” 

 

Lisa Perez Jackson

 Photo from https://archive.epa.gov/epa/aboutepa/administrator-lisa-p-jackson-2009-2013.html

Lisa Perez Jackson is a Princeton University alumnus and a chemical engineer who served as the Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 2009 to 2013. She is the first African American to have held that position.  According to the EPA, she “outlined principles to modernize our nation’s 30-year-old chemical management laws, called for unprecedented innovation in drinking water protection efforts, and announced tough standards to clean the air we breathe.” During her time with the EPA, she improved environmental regulation policies and supported communities that were historically underrepresented in environmental initiatives such as low-income areas and vulnerable age groups. Today, Jackson works as Apple’s Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives. Each day, she strives to transform Apple into a more environmentally conscious company. 

Dr. Adrienne Hollis

Photo from https://www.ucsusa.org/about/people/adrienne-hollis

Dr. Adrienne Hollis has always been an academic with a passion for the environment. She holds a doctorate degree in biomedical sciences and a law degree with a concentration in environmental law. Dr. Hollis worked on environmental issues in her postdoctoral studies at the Harvard School of Public Health, was employed as a Supervisory Environmental Health Scientist and Toxicologist (Section Chief) at the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, worked as a Project Attorney at Earthjustice, a premier non-profit public interest law firm, and was the Director of Federal Policy at WE ACT for Environmental Justice, in their Washington, D.C. office. Her positions have allowed her to make great contributions and changes within various environmental fields. Today, Dr. Hollis is the Senior Climate Justice and Health Scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). She leads the development, design, and implementation of methods for accessing and documenting the health impacts of climate change on communities of color and other traditionally disenfranchised groups. 

Jacqueline Patterson

Photo from https://collegian.com/2016/09/jacqueline-patterson-speaks-about-environmental-injustice-at-diversity-symposium/

As Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) Environmental and Climate Justice program, Jacqueline Patterson helps the organization achieve its three major goals: to reduce harmful emissions, particularly greenhouse gases, advance energy efficiency and clean energy, and strengthen community resilience and livability. Patterson has worked as a researcher, program manager, coordinator, advocate and activist for women’s rights, violence against women, HIV&AIDS, racial justice, economic justice, and environmental and climate justice.

Leslie G. Fields, Esq.

 Photo from https://www.sierraclub.org/environmental-justice/staff

Leslie Fields, Esq. is another D.C. environmental powerhouse serving multiple organizations to bring environmental improvement and social justice to our nation. Fields is a graduate of Cornell University and the Georgetown University Law Center and the current senior director of Environmental Justice and Healthy Communities for the Sierra Club. She is the former international director of Friends of the Earth-US in Washington, D.C. and is currently an adjunct law professor at Howard University School of Law. Fields serves as a Commissioner on the Joint Center for Economic and Political Studies’ Commission to Engage African Americans on Energy, Climate and the Environment. In a recent interview with The Trouble, Fields said: “What we’re trying to do is work with all kinds of communities to push reducing carbon emissions and remedying in an equitable way, not just marketing solutions that are going to leave communities of color behind. We’ve got all kinds of problems, food justice issues, gentrification—all the stuff in this direct line. We can’t create any kind of solution without dealing with the legacy pollution.”  

Dajah Massey is an environmental engineer and STEM advocate who is passionate about improving our environment and informing underrepresented communities about career options within engineering and STEM fields.  She is also involved with brand management, print modeling, and women empowerment initiatives. 

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on SW Community Stands Up to Companies in Classic Environmental Justice Case

By Claire Jordan, NeRAC volunteer and DC EcoWomen board member

When people in Washington, DC think of Southwest DC, they probably think of Nationals Park, the new DC United Stadium, Superior Concrete Materials, and the construction of the new Frederick Douglas Bridge. Most people, however, don’t think of the Buzzard Point community in DC or the organizing group Near Buzzard Point Resilient Action Committee (NeRAC).

NeRAC officially began in 2017 but has been in the works for much longer. Founded and run by three DC women (Rhonda Hamilton, Kari Fulton, and Alisha Camacho), NeRAC is organizing Buzzard Point community members around the atrocious environmental injustices occurring because of the rampant and unchecked development.

NeRAC’s mission is to “build a resilient community by addressing and solving issues affecting near Buzzard Point residents in Washington, DC.” Its goal is to “empower residents, improve air quality, and improve and secure housing.” It is a think tank of residents, community partners, and experts working together to address pressing issues near Buzzard Point, Washington DC, and tackles air pollution, public health, and housing problems.

Some may see the new development in Buzzard Point as a positive contribution to this community, but with new development and construction comes compromised air quality and very sick residents who weren’t consulted on these development projects. The construction and increased traffic have created dust storms and dangerous levels of particulate matter in the air. Buzzard Point residents are having trouble breathing, asthma flare-ups, and burning sensations in their eyes. So, while people all over the city come to the Buzzard Point Community to experience the new development, residents are left to deal with the very serious health ramifications.

Rhonda Hamilton, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (ANC) representative for Buzzard Point and longtime resident, started working with filmmaker Alisha Camacho and Empower DC organizer Kari Fulton to take stock of the damage in the Buzzard Point Community and organize community members around these issues. Together, they created NeRAC. Today, NeRAC holds regular meetings, testifies in front of the DC City Council and the DC Department of Energy and the Environment, hosts a neighborhood spring cleanup to engage residents on the environmental issues their community faces, and more.

While perhaps unknown to many, the imperative work being done by NeRAC and by the three women founders should not go underestimated. When communities come under attack, we often see women at the forefront leading the charge to defend themselves and their loved ones, and it’s no different this time around.

If you’d like to stay involved and up to date on the fight happening to restore clean air in the Buzzard Point Community, you can follow NeRAC on Facebook and Twitter and attend the monthly meetings. Meeting details are below*.

*NeRAC meets the third Wednesday of every month from 6:30-8:30pm at 1501 Half Street SW, 2nd floor.

Claire Jordan serves on the Professional Development Committee of the DC EcoWomen Board and just recently finished her tenure as advocacy and outreach manager for Trash Free Maryland. Claire lives in Petworth and can be found hanging out at the library, buying tea at Teaism, or riding her bike through Rock Creek Park.

Photo 1:  NeRAC members hand out educational fliers on the issues impacting Buzzard Point to DC United fans as they make their way into the new stadium. Photo taken from NeRAC Twitter Page.
Photo 2: NeRAC Founder Rhonda Hamilton walks with a reporter from the Washington Post around Buzzard Point to showcase the air quality concerns. Photo taken from NeRAC Twitter Page.

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By Sonia Abdulbaki

I recently wrote an article on the DC EcoWomen blog regarding the global concern of water shortage. I quote myself saying, “Luckily for us, water is a luxury available with a turn of a faucet.” Suffice to stay, I stand corrected, and have the account of the 100,000 Flint, Michigan residents to back up my claim.

You also might be wondering, where is Erin Brockovich when you need her? Well, she was right there, raising awareness on several cases of water contamination, including the recent water pollution crisis in Flint. She also brought it to the attention of President Obama, who then declared the issue a state of emergency.

According to MLive, on January 18, 2016 about 100 protesters in Ann Arbor called for the arrest of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder over the state's handling of the lead poisoning of Flint residents. Snyder lives in Ann Arbor.

According to MLive, on January 18, 2016 about 100 protesters in Ann Arbor called for the arrest of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder over the state’s handling of the lead poisoning of Flint residents. Snyder lives in Ann Arbor.

The gist of it

Before the President had a hand in the matter, Flint’s mayor, Karen Weaver, declared a state of emergency in December 2015. What started two years ago as a pursuit to supply water independent of Detroit to save money transpired into a water pollution crisis.

Lead from the old pipes seeped into the Flint River and citizens knew that if the water looked, smelled and tasted wrong, then something was wrong. Although the move to locally sourced water was planned as a temporary one, its expiration date came earlier than anticipated.

The event was accompanied by longer lasting effects, including the rising lead levels shown in children’s blood tests. Increased levels of lead can result in behavioral changes and negatively influence neurological development. Brockovich pleaded for action, with claims that the legionnaire’s disease was another outcome of the crisis.

Damage control

Once the news was out, the city turned back to Detroit’s water system to put things back on track. Regardless, officials responded slowly. Accountability, as well as the damage that remained, needed to be acknowledged.

Flint’s mayor set out to replace the pipes with a $55 million plan. Michigan’s governor, Rick Snyder, turned to the National Guard for help in giving Flint citizens clean water. The time it will take to achieve this goal is unknown. President Obama aided with $5 million and authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to cover 75% of water related costs.

In the meantime, residents were taking action, obtaining water through filters and bottles and more seriously, filing a class-action lawsuit against political officials. The crisis was reported to have lasted for months, yet lawsuits are claiming that the state knew about the contamination for about one year.

Lawsuits may address accountability but major concerns remain, such as improving infrastructure and the accompanying cost, serious health risks and thorough investigation in order to stop it from happening in the future.

Erin Brockovich, an Eco-woman to be reckoned with

Erin BrockovichYou might remember her from the movie, starring Julia Roberts, as a single mother struggling to find a job, which led her to investigate a case involving the Pacific Gas & Electric Company. She discovered that land in the area was poisoning the residents, contaminated by a deadly toxic waste that the company was illegally dumping. She led her law firm into one of the largest class action lawsuits in the country’s history, one involving a multi-billion dollar corporation.

Yes, real woman, real story.

That was a couple of decades ago, and Brockovich is still on the move. She continues to fight for residents nationwide against toxic environments through her influence. Her voice resonates with the half a million followers on her social media, a platform that brought the Flint crisis to the media and government officials’ attention. Brockovich spoke out for Flint by calling out businesses, councils and the slow government response.

And yet, it is merely one of the hundreds of others in the nation whose water systems also are failing.

Sonia Abdulbaki is a freelance writer and the vice president at Daly Gray Public Relations, a firm specializing in hospitality. Sonia has extensive experience in the field of communications that includes her work at Green America. She is a contributing writer for Business Traveler magazine and MovieswithMae.com.

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on Why Should You Care About Equity Over Equality in Environmental Work?

By Tamara Toles O’Laughlin

Among other things, the EcoWomen Community is a network of change agents and activists who take on the cause of healthy and balanced society. We convene to learn from one another, support individual development and sustain a growing community of professional women.

As a member of the DC chapter, I have firsthand knowledge of our collective skill in developing relationships for lasting growth, power and access for women across sectors.

This post compares two conceptual frameworks we apply to the distribution of wealth, opportunities and privileges that underlie our pursuit for a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. To reach these noble aims, we must scrutinize our individual perspective by looking more closely at the ignoble status quo.

We all think we want equality, right? To avoid zero-sum outcomes we must look at the currency and costs for everyone involved. And that requires us to opt for equity instead.

Advice photo

Equity and equality: do they mean what you think they mean?

Equality is the quality or state of being equal; the feature or status of having the same rights, social status, etc., whereas equity is demonstrating fair treatment of people within relative circumstances. Superficially, the ideas seem virtually identical– honorable, proper, even moral. However, in real life, the difference can contribute to detrimental outcomes for vulnerable people.

Let’s agree to think of equality as fairness, based on a presumption of sameness. It aims for equal treatment through equal access to a tool, medium or a resource. Whereas, equity is akin to justice, a more contextualized form of access; it considers the circumstances and background of everyone involved, exercising deference to each.

To think about it abstractly, equality is like the golden rule and equity is more like the platinum rule, if such a thing exists. Equity treats people how they would like with the understanding that resources, benefits, and burdens are meted out based on culturally derived and defined differences.

Metaphorically speaking, equality gives everyone a boat, whereas equity ensures that each boat, based on its location, is able to make it to shore in light of the conditions facing it.

Why should you care about equity over equality in environmental work?

Umm…to avoid silos. Environmental work does not occur in a closed universe, but in interrelated systems. As such, we work on improving the quality and impact of specific efforts to protect the whole environment and we do it as women of intersection, bringing our entire selves to the site of our resistance (air, conservation, oceans).

Women-Empowerment-Stock-PhotosIn order to make substantial impacts, we must see one another beyond silos in the context of our American life – in light of our intentional, persistent and inglorious history of unequal distribution.

In the rush to save the planet, we should avoid greenwashing the past, which is full of poor land use decisions, wasteful, destructive, polluting activity, and excessive burdens stacked on vulnerable and disenfranchised populations. We must look at it all, in policy and practice, in order to make it together into the future.

What does equity look like?

Acknowledgment, assessment and dismantling of privilege.

Equity as a practice involves habitual refocusing on those persons, communities, and groups at risk in a given action. It means taking steps to provide relative access to a right or a benefit that may be available to all, with the knowledge that all things are not equal.

Equity demands recognition of systematic privilege created for the benefit of some and a willingness to address the corresponding burdens for those that are not privileged. The disenfranchisement accumulates at the same rate as the advantage for those the system of privilege is designed to serve.

zen-garden-stone-stack-26870677

Further, equitable practice means engaging the past. It means re-balancing norms that perpetuate present and continuing harms. And a sober assessment of policies that protect privilege and create inequity followed by corrective actions that dismantle the systems that safeguard the inequity.

Equity in green spaces

So, what does equity look like in our work? Program and policy initiatives that seek to understand the lived experience of disenfranchised groups and communities. This includes analyzing the current array of economic and environmental health, programs, as well as land use and transportation decision-making strategies.

Equity forces us to question the present day make up of advocates for under-served groups, and it takes cues from affected people when targeting issues of concerns on their behalf. Resulting methods should incorporate community knowledge into the baseline factors that determine where to allocate our dollars, what problems to address and who is employed to respond to identified problems. And all of this must come with a conscious excising of bastions of privilege and redistribution of resources as a matter of economic policy aimed at offsetting wrongs.

Environmental equity looks like parity, in processes that determine who bares the impacts and burdens of an action, project or an undertaking. It takes shape in policy, in the development and enforcement of legal boundaries that actively protect against shifting pollution or hazards from one group onto another.

In effect, it is environmental justice.

Equality in green spaces

To be clear, equality isn’t malevolence, it’s just not enough. Access, even equal access, can be a well-meaning and sincere disservice.

Unless it is coupled with equivalent ways and means, we cannot realize the dream of unfettered, healthy contact with nature. Unless we create space for environmental work that reaches the under-served, as they exist, and not as we would make them we waste our efforts developing climate justice tools, education and policy.

green harony imagesOtherwise, the work has no effect in spaces beyond our present influence. We run the risk of deepening injustice, and miss the opportunity to affect positive change. And isn’t the point of social justice work: to reach a future where we achieve sustainable access for everyone?

For more information and resources on these topics check out the following resources on privilege, and equity.

Tamara is an environmental advocate focused on civil society and justice issues. She holds degrees from The City College, City University of New York and two advanced degrees from Vermont Law School. Her hobbies include reading boring books about politics and neuroscience, writing diatribes about what she reads, traveling, and yoga. 

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on DC EcoWomen’s EcoHour with Talia Buford

By Sonia Abdulbaki

DC EcoWomen is a group with a mission “to provide an educational forum for women that empowers women to become leaders in the environmental community and the world.”

Women. Environment. Community.

9RTw2657The monthly EcoHour event sets out to empower these words and apply the mission statement by inviting accomplished speakers to inspire other women with their stories. Talia Buford, a successful Black American environmental journalist, was invited to speak at the September EcoHour event to share her experience with us.

Buford received a degree in journalism from Hampton University and then went on to acquire a master’s degree in law from the Georgetown University Law Center. Currently, she is a reporter for the Center for Public Integrity and formerly an energy reporter for Politico, where she covered natural gas and the Department of Interior and authored the daily Afternoon Energy newsletter. Prior to that, she held a position as legal affairs and municipal reporter for The Providence (R.I.) Journal. The Rhode Island Press Association, the National Association of Black Journalists and the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Foundation have all recognized her work.

Buford spoke fondly of her work at her hometown newspaper in Michigan because it reflected her community. It was while working there that she was exposed to the environmental justice reality created by a power plant near her neighborhood. The issue was reported to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and is still pending for 17 years to date. This issue hit close to home and motivated Buford to investigate on more of the same and to make sure the public and communities like her own were informed.

Her work as a reporter for The Providence Journal was described as tedious and prolonged, taking the immediacy out of journalism. She expressed that sitting in court, vigorously reporting on cases through serial narratives, was not her calling. Instead, she shifted her focus to reporting on environmental justice and labor issues; those topics have always appealed to her, especially because her loved ones were directly affected by these issues. Buford’s approach was informative, humble and relatable.

"It's important to see women as journalists. It's important to see people of color as journalists. It's because we tell different stories, and that's valuable." - Talia Buford at ??EcoHour?

“It’s important to see women as journalists. It’s important to see people of color as journalists. It’s because we tell different stories, and that’s valuable.”

Recently, Buford reported on the EPA Office of Civil Rights’ response to environmental justice issues. She unearthed various civil rights complaints that were made to the EPA since 1964 that had never been addressed or thoroughly investigated. EPA is reforming their approach, especially with the ability to submit complaints online.

Other issues she has covered include vital pesticide regulation in California, radioactive dumping in New Mexico and issues surrounding the EPA’s environmental racism.

She expressed the importance of journalism, to her community and to her own identity as a Black American woman. The advice she gave EcoWomen was to advocate for ourselves, something she wishes she’d known to do at the start of her career.

Buford was a lovely speaker who spoke with a natural conviction that will resonate with the community of environmental women.

Sonia Abdulbaki is a freelance writer and the vice president at Daly Gray Public Relations, a firm specializing in hospitality. Sonia has extensive experience in the field of communications that includes her work at Green America. She is a contributing writer for Business Traveler magazine and contributing editor for MovieswithMae.com.