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Environment Inequality


[Intro music]

(Introduction) Hi I’m Casey Lithgow and this is Environment and Equality, my podcast that will explore the ongoing environmental justice movement. Environmental justice is the idea that everyone should have equal access to the decision-making process in order to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work. Public policy should be based on mutual respect and justice for all peoples, free from any form of discrimination or bias. Unfortunately, we see many cases of environmental injustice all around the country. The environmental justice movement works to combat these injustices and uphold equal treatment and inclusion of all people. In order to gain a better understanding of environmental injustice and the environmental justice movement, I interviewed my sister, Alex Lithgow, a current junior at Vanderbilt University. She is currently enrolled in a course titled Environmental Justice and Politics, which focuses largely on the environmental justice movement as it connects to environmental issues, social issues, and political issues.Here is our interview.

(Interview) What exactly is the environmental justice movement? The environmental justice movement, specifically, kind of critiques the way in which the mainstream environmental movements tend to neglect certain populations or not necessarily include them in conversations about what exactly is going on with the environment. They tend to cater to the most privileged populations, which is really interesting because those are the populations that are going to be least affected by climate change. The people that can pay, for say, water to be shipped to them and different amenities that aren’t going to be super accessible to other people, it’s just interesting the way that a lot of environmental movements focus on privileged populations. For example, we’ve talked a lot about indigenous populations in America and we really, in our class, take a historical stance on a lot of issues because understanding how certain oppressed groups of people in our country got to be oppressed in the first place is really kind of important in understanding how we can go about reconciliation and reparations. Native American people don’t have any say in the kinds of things that are going on in our government. There’s very little representation. That’s kind of what the environmental justice is about is making sure that there is representation from minority groups that are going to be disproportionately affected by issues like this. We need to have their voices as a part of the conversation. Why are environmental justices and the environmental justice movement not very talked about topics? I think it’s not a very talked about topic because I think that this idea of focusing in looking at oppressed groups of people is really uncomfortable for a lot of people. How can we inform people about the environmental justice movement? I, personally, have found in my class that it really intersects, honestly, with most social justice issues and questions about policy that we talk about in this country. I think that it’s all just very connected, so bringing the environmental justice movement into other subject areas, I think, could be a way of bringing awareness to this movement that is maybe less talked about and also a way to introduce environmental injustice in other issues relating to it that people might potentially relate more to.

We’ve been talking in our class about this idea of emergent strategies. This woman, [Adrienne Maree Brown], has this concept. She discusses love versus fear based movements and whether or not it’s a good thing to scare people into making these changes. She theorizes that people are going to make better changes if movements are based around love and come through in areas like art because when fear comes into play, people tend to panic and move against this idea of the other. Movements based around this idea of immersion strategy are meant to unite people in working towards raising awareness and bringing about change. We also just talk about bringing about change in terms of policy and in terms of building awareness on a local level.

(Conclusion) So, overall, the environmental justice movement, while maybe not very well known, is still very important. It can have a significant impact on the way minority groups are treated when it comes to developing and implementing environmental laws and policies. The environmental justice movement should aim to be a movement based around love, in which everyone can work together to make a change to make sure that minority groups are equally represented.

It is important for everyone to learn about and understand environmental injustice and the environmental justice movement because we can each play a role and make a difference. What can you do? How can you get involved in the environmental justice movement to have an impact and put an end to environmental injustices? Thanks for listening.

[Closing music]