Heroes of environmental justice – the rider news

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By Ashlyn Whiteside

When you think of environmentalists you might think of Greta Thunberg and Jane Goodall, but you’ll probably be puzzled trying to think of those who are specifically fighting for environmental justice like Winona LaDuke, Dolores Huerta, and Robert Bullard. Unfortunately, this is because, unless you come from an area affected by environmental inequalities, there are fewer outlets available to get the information. This is because the topic of environmental racism is under-taught in schools and because the specific group of people involved is smaller and tends to go unnoticed on a larger scale.

As Tara Towson, Rider’s preschool education major, said, “In today’s social climate, the need to recognize our privilege, educate ourselves and listen to the stories and struggles of people of color is crucial to understanding how correct systemic injustices. ”

Environmental justice, a movement born out of the existence of environmental racism, focuses on the disproportionate effects of environmental risks on people of color as a foundation to fuel the movement while striving to correct systemic inequalities. While the movement didn’t really gain public recognition until the 1980s, people of color and low-income families have experienced disparities in environmental degradation for much longer. For example, in the 1960s, Dolores Huerta worked alongside Cesar Chavez to form the first farm workers’ union, the United Farm Workers Association.

What does this have to do with the environment? In the 1960s, there was an extremely high use of unregulated pesticides which not only damaged the soil for future crops, but also endangered the lives of Latinx workers who worked primarily on large agricultural fields. Sounds like the definition of environmental racism, right? So, Huerta and Chavez worked to protect workers and the environment from the adverse effects of large-scale agriculture, including chemicals, disruption of wildlife habitats, disruption of the hydrologic cycle and more.

Timmy Bradford, Senior Major in Musical Theater, said: “It’s really unfortunate that I spent all of my years in middle school and high school history and never heard Dolores Huerta’s name even once. times. It shows why it is so important for us to educate ourselves in order to inspire the younger generations.

And Dolores is not the only one to be excluded. Rosario Dawson, who you may know as an actress, has also inspired many with her activism through her co-founded organization, Voto Latino, which encourages Latinx populations heavily affected by climate trade to vote. She visited Rider in October 2012 and spoke to an audience of over 400 students about her organization and the importance of voting. Dawson also “volunteered with an organization that trains formerly incarcerated and gang-affiliated people in installing solar panels and screen printing reusable grocery bags, which she and other activists have.” distributed to Los Angeles stores before single-use plastics were banned statewide ”. according to a 2020 interview with Elle Magazine.

Winona LaDuke is a politician, economist, environmentalist, author, and Native American land rights activist who has founded numerous organizations, including the White Earth Land Recovery Project, which set out to restore jobs to Indigenous peoples by buying back their lands.

Robert Bullard is another prominent figure known as the “Father of Environmental Justice” for his campaign work against the dumping of toxic waste in predominantly black neighborhoods. His book “Dumping in Dixie” links systemic racism and environmental disparities, all leading to the signing of the Environmental Justice Order. These activists are just the tip of the iceberg, but this is probably the first time you’ve heard of them and their important contributions.

Want to learn more about environmental justice heroes like Dolores Huerta and her 91 years of courageous work and counting?

Join us on November 9 and 10 in the Sweigart 115 room (Rue Auditorium) at 7pm for a screening and a brief discussion on the film “Dolores”. Register at www.rider.edu/greenfilms.

In addition, a new engaged service learning program “Rider BEST” (Broncs Social and Environmental Justice Team) is offered to educate students on environmental justice issues. Contact the Sustainability Office or email [email protected] for information about the program. As inequalities across the world have recently come to the forefront of conversations, take this opportunity to educate and inspire you and your friends about environmental justice. Systemic change, big or small, starts with us.

Eco-Representative of Rider University

Ashlyn Whiteside

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