Originally published by the Environmental Law Institute’s “The Environmental Forum” May-June 2021 issue. This is an excerpt.
By the time the environmental justice movement began taking shape in the 1980s, communities of color had already been suffering from the disproportionate burdens of pollution for decades. Since then, evidence of racially discriminatory patterns in the distribution of environmental harms has only continued to mount.
Researchers from the universities of Michigan and Montana empirically documented in a pair of 2015 studies the phenomenon of “sacrifice zones,” finding that industrial facilities associated with high levels of pollution are disproportionately sited in low-income communities and communities of color.
A 2019 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science found that while White people in the United States are disproportionately responsible for particulate matter pollution — which is linked to heart disease, permanent lung damage, and premature death — Black people and Latinos endure significantly greater exposure to this pollution.
But even as environmental justice has grown in prominence, early policy responses in its support have been lackluster, undermined by tepid commitment from political leaders, inadequate resources, and feeble accountability measures. Executive Order 12898, which was first issued in 1994, directs that “each …
Racism runs much deeper than policing and law enforcement. Racial injustice is deeply embedded in our nation’s past and present. It is systemic, institutional, and interpersonal, but it is not insurmountable. It’s time for a national reckoning that takes racism and white supremacy seriously and delivers fully enforceable policies that stamp out discrimination in policing and all other institutions in our country. Black Americans and other marginalized people are entitled to the same tenets of life and liberty as guaranteed to white people. Systemic racism and lawlessness by state actors make that impossible.
Today, a jury found Derek Chauvin guilty of murdering George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in May 2020. This is one small step toward accountability for those who perpetrate violence against Black people and other marginalized people. Still mourning the loss of George Floyd and calling out the names of Adam and …
Scholars and advocates of color last week hailed the Biden administration’s efforts to ensure that disadvantaged communities reap the benefits of federal climate investments — but added that the administration must be held accountable for following through on it.
“This is our moment,” said Shalanda Baker, deputy director for energy justice at the U.S. Department of Justice and a Member Scholar with the Center for Progressive Reform who is on leave while serving in the administration.
Others said the administration’s efforts don’t go far enough and instead called for an overhaul of governance, philanthropy, and an economy that exploits people of color and the planet.
The comments came during a day of dialogue among public officials and climate justice scholars, organizers, and funders representing the Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) community. Participants emphasized the importance of climate justice and culturally responsive climate …
To commemorate Women’s History Month, we’re interviewing women at the Center for Progressive Reform about how they’re building a more just America, whether by pursuing a just transition to clean energy, protections for food workers, or legal support for Native Americans.
This week, CPR’s Executive Director, Minor Sinclair, spoke with Member Scholar Maxine Burkett, professor of law at the William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawai'i at Manoa. Burkett has written extensively in diverse areas of climate law with a particular focus on climate justice, exploring the disparate impact of climate change on vulnerable communities in the United States and globally. Their conversation explored the roots of climate justice and its connections to present day climate action.
MS: Natural disasters can be discriminatory for a host of reasons, and climate change is part of that. Why are certain communities more vulnerable …
Kamala Harris. Janet Yellen. Deb Haaland. Gina Raimondo. Marcia Fudge. Jennifer Granholm.
They’re making history as members of the largest group of women ever to serve on a presidential Cabinet. Haaland and Yellen are the first women in their positions, and Haaland is also the first Native American Cabinet secretary.
President Biden has appointed five additional women to Cabinet-level positions, including Cecilia Rouse as chair of the Council of Economic Advisors and Isabel Guzman as Small Business Administrator. Four of these five are Black, Asian American, or Latina. In total, women comprise nearly half of Biden’s Cabinet.
Women have been fighting for equality in this country for over a century — from the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, to the Women’s Strike of 1970, to the Women’s March in 2017. For women who are Black American, Asian American, or Native American, the fight has …
Intersectional environmentalism is a relatively new phrase that refers to a more inclusive form of environmentalism, one that ties anti-racist principles into sectors that have long profited from overlooking or ignoring historically disenfranchised populations.
According to youth activist Leah Thomas, “It brings injustices done to the most vulnerable communities, and the earth, to the forefront and does not minimize or silence social inequality. Intersectional environmentalism advocates for justice for people and the planet.”
Nearly 20 years ago, the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) was founded on a vision that government could be reimagined and reformed so that it serves all people — regardless of income, background, race, or religion — and our planet. Intersectional environmentalism is that vision: thriving communities on a resilient planet.
A half century ago, hundreds of Black sanitation workers marched through Memphis carrying signs bearing four small words: "I am a man."
Their short slogan carried a powerful message: Low-paid Black workers are human, and they deserve to be treated as such. Their lives, to quote today's activists for racial justice, matter.
The slogan — and its larger campaign for racial and economic equity — challenged systemic oppression of Black people. And it took on underlying white supremacist beliefs that positioned them as less than human and unworthy of humane working conditions and pay.
The campaign was sparked by an incident on February 1, 1968, when Memphis city officials forced workers to collect garbage during a heavy rainstorm, according to The Washington Post. Two men took refuge from the rain in the back of their truck and were crushed when it malfunctioned. The city refused to compensate their …
Recently, the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) launched its Beyond 12866 initiative, which seeks to promote progressive regulatory reform as a key component of the progressive movement’s efforts to build a more socially just and equitable America. To accomplish this goal, though, we must come to grips with how the regulatory system is perpetuating racial injustice and reinforcing race-based inequities. In a new web article, I take this first step by sketching out some of the ways in which cost-benefit analysis has contributed to structural racism in the broader regulatory system.
As the piece explains, regulatory cost-benefit analysis purports to adhere to a kind of “moral objectivity,” which precludes considerations of important American values like equity, justice, and fairness. Conveniently, this studied “see no evil” approach has rendered the methodology an effective conduit for injecting racism into regulatory decision-making – much as facile claims of “color blindness …
Black lives matter. As we contemplate the scope of structural racism, we find that “Black Lives Matter” needs to be said over and over again. We say it as we push for policing that protects rather than threatens. And we can keep saying it. Like when we talk about having available, affordable health care. Having access to technology and broadband, a quiet space, and time when the classroom becomes off limits due to a pandemic or climate-driven extreme weather. Finding an affordable place to live and landlords who don’t discriminate. Finding meaningful work and getting a promotion. Finding fresh food. Getting respect.
And then there’s the environment. We still see stark disparities in exposures to environmental harms in our country. For example, communities of color are more likely to live in areas with higher levels of air pollution. For decades, people of color have been …
Staff and Board members of the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) denounce the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Memorial Day. We stand with the peaceful protestors calling for radical, systemic reforms to root out racism from our society and all levels of our governing institutions and the policies they administer.
CPR Member Scholars and staff are dedicated to listening to and working alongside Black communities and non-Black people of color to call out racism and injustice and demand immediate and long-lasting change. Racism and bigotry cannot continue in the United States if our nation is to live up to its creed of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.
CPR's vision is thriving communities and a resilient planet. That ideal animates all of our work, but systemic sources of inequality and injustice stand as massive barriers to the realization …