Initial Publication Date: April 5, 2013

What does InTeGrate mean by Environmental Justice?

Environmental Justice in the US

The environmental justice movement began as a grass-roots movement of affected citizens, civil rights activists, and environmentalists collaborating to secure the rights of low-income and minority communities to clean and safe environments. It has developed into a well-articulated political movement recognized by the U.S. EPA ( This site may be offline. ) that influences environmental policy nationally and globally.

The EPA defines Envrionmental Justice in this way: Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. EPA has this goal for all communities and persons across this Nation. It will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.

Since the 1980's at least 13 university-based environmental health and racial equity centers have been developed (Bullard, Johnson, and Torres, 2011 ), reflecting the formalization and growing academic interest in the movement. Environmental Justice is a complex issue involving politics, culture, race, class, economics, geoscience, and more. Preparing students to address a grand societal challenge such as environmental injustice requires innovative and collaborative teaching methods. Engaging in an interdisciplinary conversation, incorporating diverse perspectives, and providing pedagogically strong materials are a great place to start.

Intersections of Geoscience and Environmental Justice

Many environmental hazards involve complex geoscience concepts, such as energy (e.g. extraction, use and spillage), water (e.g. watersheds, aquifers, and transport), food (e.g. soil erosion and pollution), Earth's climate (e.g. hurricanes, and acid rain), and natural hazards (e.g. effects of earthquakes, landslides). A basic understanding of these geoscience concepts is necessary to effectively mitigate these risks, whether it's through policy, education, social action, or other avenues of change.

Environmental Justice Across Disciplines

These essays from faculty in multiple disciplines provide insight into how faculty define and work with Environmental Justice in their classrooms:

More on Teaching Environmental Justice Across the Curriculum »

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