Finding the Origin of Environmental Injustice in a Broad Social and Historical ContextJosefina Li, , Bemidji State University
Knowing my audience, I say to them "our ideas, opinions don't just fall off the sky", indeed they are grounded in different ideologies, and ultimately different methodological paradigms. Thus, I begin the course by guiding my students through the different frameworks that are used to identify, analyze and resolve environmental issues. Readings are presented from contending arguments on these frameworks, so to leave the final call to the students. By examining mainstream environmental economics, ecofeminism, deep ecology, and Buddhist economics, students begin to the see that redlining, economic disinvestment, discriminatory dumping, male dominance in today's society, and slavery, genocide in human history are all interconnected issues rooted in the same oppressive conceptual framework. The logic of dominance used to justify domination of nature is used to justify domination of humans by gender, race, class, age, ethnic, and economic status. Environmental injustices are not simple environmental issues, but complex legal, political, geological, social and economic problems. With that in mind, we then proceed to read the case studies in Bullard's edited volume The Quest for Environmental Justice, and through group discussion, to demonstrate the existence of an inequitable distribution of environmental risks based on race and socioeconomic status.
Finally, we explore the concept of sustainability, and what we can do to be sustainable both as an individual and as a democratic citizen. My goal is that by then, the students would know that sustainability is a complex issue that should be approached in an interdisciplinary way, and thus any advocacy must stand in solidarity with all forms of oppression, sexism, racism, classism, ageism, and heterosexism. Environmental justice movement must be a multiracial, multi-issue, multi-regional one that broadens it agenda to include social, racial and economic injustice.
To those students who could care less the injustice because they are white privileged believe that they will never be the victim of injustice, I read to them this quote by Pastor Martin Neimoeller: "They came first for the communists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the Jews and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew...Then they came for me and by that time there was no one left to speak up".