The Environmental Justice Committee: Making Strides Towards a More Socially and Environmentally Conscious HHS
In light of George Floyd’s death, and the widespread call to reevaluate institutionalized racism, a small group of students and teachers from the Environmental club branched off to create the Environmental Justice Committee. Co-created by Environmental club leaders Catherine Bregou and Casey McGuire, advised by Ms. Kornfeld, and led by Vidushi Sharma, the committee seeks to address a nation-wide movement with an environmental approach. “I think we first came about this [idea] when we were seeing the news and there was a big movement towards justice in general,” says senior Catherine Bregou, “and we wanted to include an environmental justice aspect of it.” Casey McGuire adds, “We saw it as an opportunity to incorporate justice and equality into something that we’re both passionate about.”
For context, the ongoing Environmental Justice movement attempts to eliminate racism and other forms of discrimination relating to the environment. Some examples include how hazardous waste is exported and then lingers and remains in marginalized communities. Another example is how historically, there has not been fair representation or participation of people from these marginalized communities in environmental-decision making, despite being the ones who often face the brunt of environmental discrimination.
The committee met (virtually) numerous times over the summer, and began by first researching what environmental justice means, and what had already been done in the environmental justice movement. Guided by current and former law students Arielle King and Jameson Davis, both of whom are experts on environmental law, committee members then began reading through the HHS Climate Action Plan (CAP) in order to properly integrate the themes of environmental justice. Most recently, the committee defined the meaning of the term “environmental justice” for the CAP, which is: “Environmental Justice means equitable distribution of environmental risks and benefits, as well as fair and meaningful participation in environmental decision-making regardless of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, or geography. The Environmental Justice Movement strives to rebuild systems that further the unequal environmental effects on communities and individuals to systems that give an equal platform to all.”
Next, the committee aims to continue to discuss and amend parts of the CAP to include environmental justice, guided by Arielle and Jameson. One of the biggest concerns that committee members have repeatedly brought up is the sourcing of materials that are suggested through the Plan; when the CAP was being written students pinpointed many materials throughout the school (i.e.: wood chips and insulation) that could be traded for alternative, more environmentally conscious options. However, through research done by the Environmental Justice committee, many of the factories producing these materials are located in marginalized communities and can take a toll on the health and well-being of the inhabitants. Another topic the committee plans to focus on is ensuring that the ideals of the environmental justice movement run parallel to the mainstream environmental movement, and are not only considered an afterthought.
As for the continuation of this committee, the committee members are optimistic. “An effect of this committee in the future is that because we’re including it in the Climate Action Plan, it will be forever a consideration,” says Casey. “And I definitely think that we’re interested in reaching out towards the community,” adds Catherine. Overall, the committee is hopeful that the message of environmental justice will continue to spread in our school and the larger community, and that HHS will be not only an environmentally conscious school but one that continues to contemplate and tackle its role in environmental discrimination.
If you’re interested in learning more about this committee, please email Vidushi Sharma (firstname.lastname@example.org), Catherine Bregou (email@example.com), or Casey McGuire (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Image Source: https://ensia.com/voices/environmental-justice/