Recognizing early champions in environmental justice

In honor of Black History Month, it is important to acknowledge that in the United States, communities of color are the most impacted by environmental racism. It is important to highlight significant contributions of Black leaders such as Dr. Robert Bullard and Dr. Dorceta Taylor in the struggle for environmental justice.  Their pioneering work advocates for marginalized communities, works towards greater diversity and inclusion in the environmental field, and asserts that we can build a better future for all. These are powerful principles that inspire the department’s work and influence King County’s commitment to environmental justice.

Dr. Taylor and Dr. Bullard are pioneers in environmental justice. Dr. Taylor’s research considers the intersection of race, class, and environmental issues. Her voice and work have underlined the unequal effects of environmental threats on marginalized communities and called for stronger attention to environmental justice in policymaking and planning. Her focus on equity and social justice is reflected is reflected in King County’s 2020 Strategic Climate Action Plan (SCAP), which prioritizes climate equity and recognizes that marginalized communities are the likely to suffer the greater burden of negative effects of climate change.

Dr. Bullard is often referred to as the “father of environmental justice.” He has worked to raise attention on environmental racism and to advocate for policies that further environmental justice. He is a vocal leader on the disproportionate impacts of pollution and climate change on communities of color and has championed efforts to promote community-driven decision-making and policy development.

The issues and approaches promoted by Dr. Taylor and Dr. Bullard are reflected in King County’s work, and emphasize long-term responsibility to frontline community partnerships, and improved infrastructure for community-driven policy and decision-making.

As a priority for the county, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for the impacts of climate change, require partnerships with marginalized communities. This includes investing in frontline community partnerships, youth leadership, BIPOC leadership development, as well as extending language access and promoting climate literacy and community capacity.  All of which are important strategies for addressing the harmful impacts of environmental racism.

As a department, we are committed implementation of the SCAP and environmental justice principles in our work and our personal lives. We strive to diversify STEM careers, adopt sustainable practices, and advocate for policies that promote equity and justice. Our efforts such as the Green Jobs Strategy, authentic community engagement, education and co-creation around climate change and sustainability, can shape a more sustainable, equitable, and resilient future for all.

By celebrating the contributions of environmental justice leaders like Dr. Taylor and Dr. Bullard, we can continue to learn from their insights and experiences as we work towards a more just and sustainable world for all.

If you wish to understand more about environmental justice, learn more about the experiences an story of people like Ashley Townes who are making a positive impact on local environmental inequities. 

More resources to deepen our knowledge and awareness of environmental justice.

Deeply Rooted is an eight part video that explores environmental justice in a changing Washington.

“The Sacrifice Zone” is a film that examines the impact of industrial pollution on marginalized communities in Louisiana.

“Environmental Justice in Action” is a video series that profiles individuals and organizations working to promote environmental justice and sustainability.

Global Environmental Justice Observatory produced by University of California, Santa Cruz – Films, documentaries, and short news reports cover a variety of issues ranging from toxic air emissions, water contamination, nuclear waste, to issues of “natural” hazards.

“The Story of Stuff” is a series of videos that explore the impact of consumerism and waste on the environment and human health.

“Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors” by Carolyn Finney is a book that explores the intersection of race, culture, and the environment.

“Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality” by Robert Bullard is a book that examines the impact of environmental racism on communities of color in the United States.

“This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate” by Naomi Klein is a book that argues that the fight against climate change is also a fight against inequality and injustice.

“The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America” by Richard Rothstein is a book that explores the role of government policies in creating and perpetuating racial segregation in the United States, including in the realm of environmental policy. The link includes a webinar and audio interviews on his book.

“Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice” is an organization that works to promote environmental justice and support grassroots organizing in communities of color and low-income communities. Their website has a lot of resources on a range of environmental justice issues.

King County Climate Action learn more what King County is doing, its actions and strategies and what everyday cations you can take towards to reduce our effects on climate change.

Natural Connections learn about biological diversity or “biodiversity” and how it keeps our ecosystems balanced. See what big tasks insects perform to maintain healthy environments, and find out how riding the bus can literally help save the world.

Unbreathable: The Fight for Healthy Air is a documentary that explores the impact of air pollution on communities in the United States.

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