Education and Awareness Will Promote Environmental Justice
The goals of this environmental justice conference are stated simply: firstly, to explore whether racial minorities and the poor are being environmentally victimized, and secondly, to evaluate public policies that promote environmental fairness. Each speaker provided insight and information from their respective area of expertise. Led by keynote speaker Dr. Bunyan Bryant, they drew upon the realms of academic investigation, government and public policy, sociology, healthcare, and philosophy to unite the environmental movement with the quest for social justice. After absorbing so much information concerning the current state of environmental justice, one leaves the conference with an overwhelming sense of responsibility to promote awareness and fairness when dealing with issues of environmental quality.
Dr. Bunyan Bryant of the University of Michigan began by addressing the history, issues, dilemmas, and central premises of the environmental justice movement. Dr. Bryant distinguishes environmental racism, or the targeting of certain communities for undesirable land use, from environmental equity. The movement is characterized by a complexity of cultural norms, rules, regulations, behaviors, values, policies, and decisions. These influences either lead to the promotion of sustainable communities and the realization of high potentials, or contribute to the degradation of environments by impeding communities from enjoying social, political, and environmental health. Dr. Bryant notes the importance of key events, ranging from the effects of the 1990 Michigan Conference to the earlier convergence of the civil rights and environmental movements around the time of the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Fred Hampton. The awareness promoted by Rachel Carson, Paul Ehrlich, and Barry Commoner is also central to the survival of the movement. Additionally, many conferences over the years have contributed to the organization and dissemination of information vital to the growth of the environmental justice movement. As the movement continues to grow and hopefully breach international boundaries, Dr. Bryant emphasizes the importance of promoting an understanding of the central issues of race, income, intent, pollution control versus prevention, positivism and participatory research, and top-down versus bottom-up perspectives of investigation. Overall, Dr. Bryant's talk reveals the uniting theme of the conference - the need for public awareness and understanding of environmental issues and concerns.
Dr. Manuel Lizarralde spoke of green imperialism and the relationship of indigenous people with the conservation of natural environments. He emphasizes the importance of encouraging knowledge and understanding of the environmental effects of the consumerism lifestyle, as well as recognizing the expertise of indigenous people concerning their environment. Dr. Lizarralde...