All about EJ

Hi all! Considering my program is still hush-hush for now, I’d love to talk about my experience at the Environment Virginia conference I attended this month in Lexington, VA. There was a surprising amount of panels focused on Environmental Justice (EJ), one of the topics very near and dear to my heart. One of the things I’m doing for my current USFS program is developing a DEIAJ+ framework, so these EJ panels were a perfect way to learn from some of the professionals in the field.

Before we dive into the learnings, I want to first say that Virginia is my home. I love this state, I love its mountains, I love its valleys, and I love its people. Hearing from fellow Virginians about very real EJ issues facing our residents both saddened and inspired me – it reminded me of why I’m in this field and why the fight we’re fighting is so important. There are real lives at stake here, and while it’s easy to get lost in the granular details of doing climate work, I’d really like to ask my fellow RAs to take the time to reflect on who their work impacts and how.

One of the first panels I attended was all about EJ right here where I live in Richmond, VA. The speakers were all from non-profit organizations in Richmond, and I was incredibly impressed by the work they do as separate organizations and also by their allyship. They discussed a variety of EJ issues in the community (e.g., lack of access to green spaces for marginalized populations, limitations of the public transportation system), and what stood out to me the most was this quote: “We need to ground our climate resilience work in how it relates to people.” I’ll certainly be carrying that quote around with me for a long time to come, and I only hope that I won’t lose sight of this throughout my career in climate.

EJ in Southside VA panel, speakers from NAACP, Southern Environmental Law Center, and Lake Country Soil and Water Conservation District.

“There’s no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” – Audre Lorde

If there’s one thing I’ll take away from the conference, it’s this quote by Audre Lorde that was captured in one of the slides during the panel in that photo above. Climate change is not a single issue struggle. I hope we will all be using an intersectional lens when thinking about climate action.

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