Tag Archives: Environmental Justice

T4CI Salutes César Chávez

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The last day of March is César Chávez’s birthday. The late social justice worker was also committed to helping the earth. He equated the farmer workers he worked for as the canaries in coal mines.

“Farm workers are society’s canaries.Those who live in the area of grape vineyards are constantly exposed to cancer, birth deformity, miscarriages, sterility, respiratory difficulties and death. You find toxic substances in the fields, streets, soils, air, water, playgrounds, parks, and the poison and killing of children continues unabated.”

Take a look at this mini bio of the inspiring leader:

International Women’s Day: Saluting Jane Addams

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Today is International Women’s Day, which celebrates women for their economic, political and human rights achievements.

T4CI is proud to partner with so many wonderful women-led projects. After all, the sustainability and environmental movements began with women.

That’s why we wanted to salute a woman who would have been considered an environmental justice advocate  – except the term wasn’t around during her time.

Many people know of Jane Addams as the founder of Hull House and the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (1931).  Some may not realize how pioneering she was in uncovering environmental health concerns and advocating for environmental equality for all people, no matter their income or ethnicity. She helped to uncover lead poisoning and industrial poisons in many low-income housing and factories. She investigated slums (founding the profession of urban sociology), brought about passage of factory inspections, pushed for ending child labor, improved tenement conditions and sweatshops, fought for shorter hours, higher wages, protective labor laws, and established the nation’s first juvenile court.

The abridgment of civil liberties and attacks on pacifists in World War I (she was vilified as a traitor for opposing the war), led Addams to help found the American Civil Liberties Union. She died at 74, her work for social justice having impacted every aspect of American life.

MLK: more than a civil rights leader; an environmental justice visionary

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When we think of Martin Luther King, Jr, the environment and sustainability are not what comes to mind. However, his vision of basic civil rights went well past freedom, equality, and the end of racial segregation. He also believed everyone has the right to clean air, water, and soil, as well as a right to live in healthy and nurturing natural environments.

Here’s what he said in 1967:

“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality. Did you ever stop to think that you can’t leave for your job in the morning without being dependent on most of the world? 

You get up in the morning and go to the bathroom and reach over for the sponge, and that’s handed to you by a Pacific islander. You reach for a bar of soap, and that’s given to you at the hands of a Frenchman. And then you go into the kitchen to drink your coffee for the morning, and that’s poured into your cup by a South American. And maybe you want tea: that’s poured into your cup by a Chinese. Or maybe you’re desirous of having cocoa for breakfast, and that’s poured into your cup by a West African. And then you reach over for your toast, and that’s given to you at the hands of an English-speaking farmer, not to mention the baker. And before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half the world.    

This is the way our universe is structured, this is its interrelated quality. We aren’t going to have peace on Earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality.” – 1967 Christmas sermon on peace       

Environmentalists watched as King’s movement moved the conscience of the nation and pressed Congress to enact the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and other landmark legislation aimed at making racial equality the law of the land. His actions planted the seeds of the environmental justice movement.

The result was the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and  the National Environmental Policy Act. It makes environmental considerations mandatory for major actions undertaken or permitted by the federal government and guarantees that public environmental concerns will be heard.

As former US Attorney General Eric Holder said:

“Dr. King did not have the chance to witness the impact of the movement that he began. But he left with us the creed that continues to guide our work. His enduring words, which he penned from a Birmingham jail cell, still remind us that, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’”

How will you honor MLK’s work today and everyday?