When we talk about equity, we often think of big systems–education, the economy, legal institutions. But equity also includes access to a healthy and clean environment. In this edition of LOVE notes, we will focus on the environment, sustainability, and efforts to highlight community engagement and environmental justice.
Earth Day was earlier this week, and as stories highlighting the day appeared on broadcast and social media, it was hard to miss the centrality of efforts to influence legislators to make change. The roots of the modern environmental movement are closely tied to the civil rights movement. The actions that led to laws such as the Clean Air Act and other environmental regulations followed from strategies directly drawn from the civil rights movement. As climate change drives an uptick in environmental disasters–wildfires, hurricanes, floods–we in higher education community engagement must ask ourselves: In what ways have we or are we facilitating the opportunities for the university, students, and community members to work together towards a sustainable environmental future? This does not mean just connecting students to community gardens or arranging for a beach clean-up; it means going beyond to think about the ways we embody sustainability and environmental justice in our institutional practices. It also means introducing the topic of environmental racism—the empirical fact that communities of color and under-resourced communities are disproportionately impacted by environmental hazards, pollution, and contamination.
How can our institutions move towards Living Out our Value of Equity in the environment and sustainability? Some Campus Compact member institutions have empowered Sustainability Officers to lead campuswide change. At Seattle University, the Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability supports campus policy change, teaching, research, and community engagement. At Montclair State University, the Environmental Justice Minor is designed to prepare students to participate effectively in government processes and community life.
What is your campus doing to advance environmental justice? How are these efforts connected to community engagement? How can collaboration be built more intentionally and critically around community engagement and sustainability? Earth Day is just as much about reflection as it is action. Think about the ways your office, program, or department can connect to or lead efforts around sustainability on your campus and with the community. To help you do so, here are some resources to LOVE.
- The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education https://www.aashe.org/
- Article – Higher Education’s Commitment to Sustainability: from Understanding to Action. Canada and USA Regional Report- http://www.guninetwork.org/articles/higher-educations-commitment-sustainability-understanding-action-canada-and-usa-regional
- Article – On the Stubborn Whiteness of Environmentalism – https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2018/06/22/how-environmentalism-academe-today-excludes-people-color-opinion
- Article – Environmental Justice Education: Empowering Students to become Environmental Citizens – https://www.urbanedjournal.org/archive/volume-5-issue-1-spring-2007/environmental-justice-education-empowering-students-become-envi
- Article – What the Environmental Movement owes Martin Luther King Jr. – https://grist.org/article/what-the-environmental-justice-movement-owes-martin-luther-king-jr/
- Natural Resources Defense Council – https://www.nrdc.org/
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