Environmental Justice

What is Environmental Justice?

(Image credit: Tiffany Bozic, Trees)

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” (NIEHS, 2017). Essentially, it is the concept that environmental policy should consider the multicultural diversity – including socioeconomic status and nationality – of the people it affects.

This concept, along with climate justice – the concept that acknowledges that climate change disproportionately affects underprivileged populations who have done the least to cause it (Trócaire, 2017) – is a multiculturally-inclusive approach to stopping and reversing the effects of global climate change, and one that many advocates and education experts are beginning to introduce into early education curriculum. By introducing environmental justice and climate justice to young people, educators and caregivers are teaching them about diversity and global awareness as well as conservation.

So, what are some ways that educators and caregivers can bring environmental justice and climate justice into lessons and conversations on conservation?

  • Explore local farms and farmers’ markets: A great way to start inclusive conversations on sustainability with kids is to explore local sources of food production. Neighborhood farmers’ markets allows kids to meet and speak with the people who produce their fruits, veggies, meat, and more. JJ and I recently went to a local growers’ expo, where we were able to learn about honey production, pet baby ducklings, learn how strawberries grow, and patronize the small businesses selling locally-grown and -produced food. In addition, many of the growers and organizers we spoke to offered farm tours for families and schools, as well as educational programs for kids on sustainable farming. Additionally, many of the growers we spoke to represented and were advocates for underserved communities in food production and distribution, such as racial minorities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and the economically-disadvantaged. We were able to learn about programs that distributed fresh produce to food banks, programs that assisted displaced persons by offering agricultural training, and programs that allowed low-income families to double the value of their SNAP benefits when they were used at farmers’ markets. Overall, exploring farmer’s markets and small farms is a great way to begin conversations on inclusively sustainable food production. To find a farmers’ market or agritourism site (a farm open for tours) in the United States near you, check out the USDA’s Local Food Directory Search.
  • Check out conservation and sustainability programs for kids: Another great way to get kids of all cultures invested in conservation is to check out local programs that promote inclusive and diverse engagement in both. By showing kids that they can help, they will often find themselves motived to help. There are plenty of no- and low-cost programs that allow kids, either with their families or as a class, to participate in conservation efforts, such as local clean-ups, recycling events, guided nature walks, and the National Park Service’s Junior Ranger Program.
  • READ! And lastly, read together of course! Here are the reviews of our favorite books about sustainability, climate change, and climate justice:

Our House Is On Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call To Save The Planet by Jeanette Winter

On The Farm, At The Market by G. Brian Karas

Only One by Deborah Hopkinson & Chuck Groenink

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

Dear Little One by Nina Laden & Melissa Castrillon

This Pretty Planet by Tom Chapin & John Forster

Spring After Spring: How Rachel Carson Inspired The Environmental Movement by Stephanie Roth Sisson

Alice Waters Cooks Up a Food Revolution by Diane Stanley

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom

If I Were A Park Ranger by Catherine Stier

Follow The Moon Home: A Tale Of One Idea, Twenty Kids, And A Hundred Sea Turtles by Philippe Cousteau & Deborah Hopkinson

Solar Story: How One Community Lives Alongside The World’s Biggest Solar Plant by Allan Drummond

Be Thankful for Trees: A Tribute to the Many & Surprising Ways Trees Relate to Our Lives by Harriet Ziefart & Brian Fitzgerald

Ocean!: Waves For All by Stacy McAnulty

V is For Voting by Kate Farrell

The Bear’s Garden by Marcie Colleen

When Grandma Gives You A Lemon Tree by Jamie L.B. Deenihan

Plant, Sow, Make, & Grow: Mud-tastic Activities For Budding Gardeners by Esther Coombs

The Lumberjack’s Beard by Duncan Beedie

Because Of An Acorn by Lola M. Schaefer & Adam Schaefer

Flowers Are Calling by Rita Gray

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