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View Diary: Fighting for green: People of color and environmental justice (132 comments)

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  •  Maybe (5+ / 0-)

    I've worked with several national environmental organizations and many of the projects I have worked on during that time have directly involved protecting minority communities, whether from groundwater pollution in Tennesee or from agricultural air pollution in Hawaii or California's Central Valley.   In my experience, this stereotype that mainstream environmental organizations ignore these issues is not entirely accurate

    Touch all that arises with a spirit of compassion. An activist seeks to change opinion.

    by Mindful Nature on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 10:31:20 AM PDT

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    •  I think one group that comes to mind (4+ / 0-)

      who has gotten heavy criticism is the Sierra Club.

      I'm going to address some of this history in future pieces.  Some big name groups have attempted to shift gears and open up to coalitions - others have not.

      Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 10:38:20 AM PDT

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      •  The Sierra club (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Denise Oliver Velez

        Is a member driven organization so the local chapters follow the priorities of those who show up at meetings.  It also makes it vulnerable to attempts to hijack the organization, as the wingnuts tried to do a few years back to put immigration on the agenda.  That effort failed

        Touch all that arises with a spirit of compassion. An activist seeks to change opinion.

        by Mindful Nature on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 11:08:21 AM PDT

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        •  Thanks - I don't know much about them (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          joedemocrat, Mindful Nature

          but have been reading.

          Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

          by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 11:26:08 AM PDT

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          •  It's a complicated topic (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            bartcopfan

            It's worth keeping track of the history of different environmental groups.

            The Sierra Club was founded by John Muir around 1905 to fight the building of Hetch Hetchy dam up in the Sierra Club.  To this day, it is made up of a series of chapters that do both activism and social events like hikes and so forth.  Naturally, the SC is focused on protecting natural areas and experiencing them.  However, as the members have changed their interests, the campaigns have expanded to other topics.  THere is also a national organization that is not infrequently at odds with local chapters, for example over fracking.  they're doing a lot more onn a national level on climate change.

            Eathjustice used to be part of the Sierra Club and is effectively a law firm dedicated to fighting all kinds of battles for different parties.  Because they're a professional organization, I'd expect them to take up a greater number of EJ cases.

            Natural Resources Defense Council was founded in the early 1970s by some young lawyers to be an analague of the NAACP but dedicated to protecting the environment.  It is also a professional organization with a very heavy emphasis on science and policy.  There are a lot of members, but a lot of the campaigns are run by the professional staff and are often quite technical.  I worked with NRDC for a time, including on some EJ lawsuits.  I'd expect (actually, I know they do) them to take on EJ issues and to keep these issues in the forefront of their thinking. (Having been on the inside, I know this is the case).  however, they also take on issues of general importance that affect all communities, such as the use of antibiotics in farm animals or air quality regulations.

            Environmental Defense Fund is kind of a comparable organization to NRDC and also would tackle EJ issues, since they're often interested in market based approaches and interact with urban issues and more "mainstream" approaches.

            Greenpeace was founded in the 1970s to be a more militant in opposition to nuclear p0ower and has since expanded its range to a series of issues that might touch on EJ issues.  I'm a member, myself, but I'm not as sure on what they are up to.

            Then there are organizations like the Center for biological Diversity, which was founded by a pair of disgruntled Forest Service employees who thought the USFWS wasn't taking account of the species that occur in public lands.  I also have worked with CBD.  Their focus is entirely on wild areas and endangered species.  They have a significant professional staff, but also conduct a number of membership campaigns as well.  It would make as much sense to expect them to take up EJ issues as it would to expect the NAACP to be working on a campaign on bycatch from tuna fishing.  It isn't what they do or what they are founded for.  

            Other organizations I know less well but are kind of like CBD include Defenders of Wildlife and the Friends of the Earth.  

            Then there are organizations like the Nature Conservancy that simply buy up natural areas to protect them.  They also aren't going to go into EJ since that's not their mission.

            Long story short, a lot of the environmental movement came about from efforts to prevent habitat destruction, and they differ considerably in which they've expanded past that to encompass other issues.  Of the key ones, I'd say the Sierra Club, NRDC and EDF have the broader rubric to encompass EJ issues and would be the natural environmental organizations with a general mission that I'd expect to do the kind of bridge building you are talking of.  Others like CBD or Defeders of Wildlife would love to bring more minorities in, but would do it by trying to get minorities to be interested/prioritize natural areas, rather than in shifting their mission.

            In other words, environmental organizations are a diverse group, and some of their differences can be understood by looking at their history and their mission.  Some it makes sense to do this bridge building, others, no.

            on antoher note about bridge building and getting minorities to be concerned about natural areas I'd look up Shelton Johnson for some interesting thoughts on this issue.  He is known as "American's Black Park Ranger," a total disserve to all the other ones as he'd be the first to tell you!  I've had the pleasure of talking with him a little and he suggests that those of us with this strong sense of connection to natural areas to make as many offers of invitation to share as we can.  This is a call that I'd peg the Sierra Club as the perfect organization to take up this mission, but not, say NRDC.  Also, of course, I'd read some of Bell Hooks on how African Americans may have let the connection to nature that is their heritage go dormant.  

            Anyway, if you want to ping me for thoughts on what enviros are up to, please let me know!

            Touch all that arises with a spirit of compassion. An activist seeks to change opinion.

            by Mindful Nature on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 05:09:24 PM PDT

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          •  oh and on the Sierra Club (0+ / 0-)

            do try to get the inside perspective.  I remember when there was an attempt to hijack the club by some Limbaugh acolytes who wanted to coopt the organization by getting anti- immigration people on the the board, hoping no one was paying attention to those ballots that show up.  Fortunnately, other folks raised the alarm and we beat that one back.  I was a member at the time (still am, actually) and it was a pretty contentious time.

            Touch all that arises with a spirit of compassion. An activist seeks to change opinion.

            by Mindful Nature on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 05:15:30 PM PDT

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          •  But wait, there's more! (0+ / 0-)

            For $19.99 you can get this set of fabulous ginsu knives!

            Sorry, but I did a little more reading and not surprisingly it was more complicated than I'd remembered..  Strange to see a former director of the Congressional black Caucus Foundation receiving support from white supremacists!  I'm guessing that had never happened before.  

            Touch all that arises with a spirit of compassion. An activist seeks to change opinion.

            by Mindful Nature on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 05:30:01 PM PDT

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          •  Wrong link (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Denise Oliver Velez

            Try this one.

            Touch all that arises with a spirit of compassion. An activist seeks to change opinion.

            by Mindful Nature on Mon Jul 29, 2013 at 12:00:31 PM PDT

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    •  No it's not. Lots of people are more enlightened (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Denise Oliver Velez

      than that.

      Doesn't take very many getting press coverage to do a lot of damage.

      LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

      by dinotrac on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 10:57:38 AM PDT

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