"Come Sunday morning, there's going to be a new environmental movement!"
With these words, Dr. Benjamin Chavis of the United Church of Christ charged the delegates, participants, and observers at the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit with an awesome task. We, as people of color, had gathered to reclaim and define current environmental and social issues in our own words and experiences. The search for solutions would begin in earnest.
Yet at the core of the discussions, dialogues, and debates, the twin evils of racism and classism were always present. When one sector of a society uses its wherewithal to exploit others, the cure is not solely the responsibility of another, more benevolent sector of the dominant group. Those directly affected must have a voice in designing the repair. Even though the disenfranchised were not architects of the initial pollution, they are the recipients. However unintentional, racism and classism can pervert the most noble of goals. Acknowledging this fact was possibly one of the most difficult realizations for representatives of traditional environmental groups.
The traditional environmental movement has been fairly comfortable addressing issues in a more analytical or "preservationist" bent: an endangered species or wetland, an entity or entities that have no sentient voice. While these efforts are crucial, the amount of resources and time spent on these concerns has been viewed by people of color and low income people to have little or no regard for their more immediate needs. The activities of a Sierra Club or Audubon Society were viewed as efforts of the privileged class. They seem not relate to the concerns of populations who grapple daily with the effects of pollution or social policies that lead to more pollution which has an adverse impact on them. It is the struggle to work towards that point of mutual understanding that is at the center of the new environmental movement.
Yet the beat goes on. The circle has expanded exponentially. Those new to this struggle are encouraged and see strength in the ones who have been hard at work for their communities for years. The seasoned advocates have regained a measure of faith in the future. All of us ultimately will benefit, but we must not let the momentum falter.
In This Issue:
1 Building Community
by Baldemar Velasquez
1 Transforming a Movement
by Dana Alston
3 Race, Poverty & the Distribution of Environmental Hazards
by Paul Mohai and Bunyan Bryant
4 Woman Power at the Summit
by Ellie Goodwin
4 Education and Youth Reportback from the Summit
5 Rev. Chavis Blasts Federal Inaction on Lead Poisoning
5 The Real Story Behind EPA's "Environmental Equity" Report
8 El Pueblo of Kettleman City Beat Chem Waste in Round One
9 Wangari Maathai Arrested
9 Another Reason Not to Let Polluters Open Shop in Your Community
12 The World Bank Dumps on the Third World Again
14 Air Force Report Dismisses Native Concerns
by Grace Bukowski
15 Toxic Threat to Indian Lands Update
by the Indigenous Environmental Network
16 Lead Poisoning Hits People of Color Hardest, NRDC Testifies
16 Fellowship in Environmental Law for People of Color