1/11/2021 Kim O'Brien

New Series Puts Spotlight on Environmental Justice

A new Franklin & Marshall College speaker series is amplifying the voice of activists from underrepresented populations working in the environmental justice community. 

The Environmental Justice Speaker Series, supported by the Center for the Sustainable Environment, commenced its 2021 season with a virtual presentation by José Bravo, executive director of the Just Transition Alliance

Bravo’s Jan. 8 discussion, "A Just Transition We Can All Live With,” examined how transitions away from fossil fuels actually perpetuate environmental injustice. 

Proposed projects in nuclear energy, geoengineering, biofuels, incineration and carbon markets, while well-intentioned, often do not benefit their surrounding communities.

“Take a map of the United States and look at where the highest populations of people of color, low income communities and indigenous communities are,” Bravo said. 

Compare that map to areas that have the highest concentrations of hazardous waste incineration, hazardous waste dumps and heavy industry.

“If you superimpose the maps, they are almost identical,” Bravo said. 

Born in Mexico and raised in Southern California, Bravo’s experience as a child of farm workers informs much of this work today. 

“In my community – in the farmer community – we had a different understanding of what pesticides were,” he said. 

This example was one of many to highlight the experience of minority groups who often work and live “along the fence line” of polluting industries. 

Bravo played an integral role at the first National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, held in 1991. The Principles of Environmental Justice developed at the summit have served as a defining document for growing grassroots movements. 

  • The "solutions" to climate change (shown in image) often have adverse affects that do not follow the principles of environmental justice, according to the Just Transition Alliance. The "solutions" to climate change (shown in image) often have adverse affects that do not follow the principles of environmental justice, according to the Just Transition Alliance. Image Credit: Just Transition Alliance

The Environmental Justice Speaker Series

Upcoming speakers will cover a broad range of topics discussing the intersection between environmentalism, race, income, health and more. The series’ inaugural discussion, ”Birding While Black,” featured J. Drew Lanham, acclaimed author, birder, wildlife ecologist and naturalist.

Scheduled speakers and topics include: 

  • Sacoby Wilson, Environmental health - Feb. 16, 5:30 p.m. [EST]

  • Paul Corbit Brown, Ecological and community disturbance caused by mountaintop removal - March 1, 1 p.m. [EST]

  • Harriet Washington, Environmental racism - March 9, 5:30 p.m. [EST]

  • Alejandría Lyons, Environmental justice and water rights in New Mexico - April 15, 2 p.m. [EST] 

Visit the Center for Sustainable Engagement page for event details, including ZOOM links for each presentation . 

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