The idea of Environmental Justice conjures the possibility of convergence and true inclusion. It encompasses not just the deep interconnections that are at the heart of ecology, but also the egalitarianism of a document like the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Here in the United States, you could say that Environmental Justice links the Sierra Club to Black Lives Matter to Native land claims.
What do we mean when we talk about environmental justice? Usually, we mean the crucial struggle against specific forms of injustice: dirty factories in poor, Black-majority neighborhoods; unequal access to green space; radioactive waste seeping into Native water supplies; the poisoning of Latinx farm workers; the flight of refugees from drought, famine, fires, and storms. But environmental justice can also offer us a radical, positive vision of collective thriving—as a historical perspective reveals. The idea of environmental justice, connecting the common good to the protection of common, shared environments, goes back centuries. This talk will use the lens of history to reconsider the ways in which environmental justice could shape our common future.