Environmental justice is the right of all people and communities to equal environmental protection under the law and equal involvement in environmental decision-making processes. It is the right to "live, work, and play in communities that are safe, healthy, and free of life-threatening conditions."
Whether by conscious design or institutional neglect, commercial, industrial, and governmental policies or actions have resulted in the disproportionate exposure of poor communities and people of color to environmental hazards and environmental health burdens. The environmental justice movement seeks to promote economic alternatives that contribute to the development of environmentally safe livelihoods for all and address systemic environmental injustices.
Delegates to the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit held in 1991 drafted and adopted The Principles of Environmental Justice, which have served as a defining document for the environmental justice movement since.
How does the EPA define environmental justice?
The Environmental Protection Agency defines EJ in the following way:
"Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.
Environmental justice will be achieved when everyone enjoys:
Critiques of the EPA’s definition of Environmental Justice
Some activist circles in the environmental justice movement take issue with aspects of the EPA’s definition. They note that, in their eyes, the goal is not to have the same degree of protection from health hazards, but to build a system that does not accept health hazards as a byproduct of operation. In other words, the goal is not to redistribute environmental harms, but to abolish them.
OUR HOME?: Student Environmental Justice Stories by Gabriella Robinson
Environmental Injustice in some of SU Students' Hometowns
Lead Contamination in Flint, Michigan
Louisiana’s Cancer Alley
Water Resources in Indigenous Communities
For more case studies:
Climate Justice Definition
While climate change impacts people globally, not everyone is affected in the same ways. Climate change, like pollution and environmental degradation, disproportionately impacts communities of color and low-income communities, in addition to persons with disabilities, women, and children.
Overall, climate injustice addresses the fact that certain populations and countries...
King County and City of Seattle
SeattleU's Strategic Directions 2020-2025
Seattle University’s Strategic Directions envision the university as “a leader in environmental sustainability that is socially just, recognizing the centrality of environmental justice to our mission and value and infusing the science, economics and ethics of this issue in our programs, operations, and investments.”
The President’s Committee for Sustainability has developed four priorities to support this vision. Read the full at:Sustainability Strategic Priorities 2020-2025
Seattle U has committed to put concrete action behind the goals outlined by Pope Francis in his 2015 encyclical Laudato Sí: On Care for Our Common Home. Dr. Jeanette Rodriguez, Director of SU's Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture (ICTC), has been appointed chair of SU’s Laudato Sí Action Platform Steering Committee. The committee will lead the efforts towards the following goals of Laudato Sí: Respond to the Cry of the Earth; Respond to the Cry of the Poor; Foster Ecological Economics; Adopt a Sustainable Lifestyle; Offer Ecological Education; Develop Ecological Spirituality; Support Local Communities.
Divestment and Socially Responsible Investments
In September 2018, Seattle U committed to fully divest the marketable portion of its endowment from any investments in companies owning fossil fuel reserves by June 30, 2023.
Fair Trade Designated Campus: Seattle University was the first University in the Pacific Northwest to earn the title of Fair Trade Designated University.
Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability (CEJS). In 2013, CEJS was created with the mission to inspire care for our communities through the research and practice of social, economic and environmental justice.
Center for Indian Law and Society: The SU Law School's Center for Indian Law and Policy provides services, information, and education to Indian people, tribal leaders, students, and attorneys.
Access to Justice Center (Law School): The Access to Justice Institute serves as the law school's social justice hub.
Indigenous People's Institute: IPI supports Native student success at Seattle University and raises awareness about issues of importance to local and global Indigenous peoples. Through on-campus events and activities that include the broader community, IPI seeks accountability to Coast Salish and Urban Native peoples and the lands we now share.
There are many opportunities at Seattle University to engage in meaningful work relating to environmental justice abroad. Check out the following SU organizations for involvement opportunities:
SU students, faculty, and staff have been involved in 58 global service projects over the years! Take a look at the variety of projects that SU has been engaged in here.
Educating oneself about environmental justice is a first step to address injustice in our communities. While education is important, it's crucial to translate what we learn into tangible actions. Explore here how you can get involved, organize, and take action on environmental justice and sustainability. See more ideas for WHAT YOU CAN DO.
Vote for climate! Visit vote.org to register to vote, make a plan to vote, and research your ballot. See CEJS's Voting page for more resources.
See CEJS' student clubs page and visit ConnectSU for more information.
The resources on this page were compiled by CEJS as examples of groups and initiatives working toward environmental justice. Seattle University is not affiliated with any of the groups and expressly disclaims all responsibility for any content provided and all liability that may arise out of participation in any organization, program, or activity.