Protecting air, water, and land is inherently tied to protecting the health and lives of people who have been marginalized. Without recognizing this and acting on it, the environmental movement will be reinforcing patterns of systemic inequality that have determined who receives the benefits of environmental progress, and who does not. The roots of the disproportionate impacts of pollution on communities of color and poverty are a direct result of the institutionalized racism in our local, state, and national public policies.
Here at HEAL Utah, we need to step up to be better allies, to protect Black lives, and to fight to correct the environmental injustices that have plagued disadvantaged communities. HEAL has talked about environmental justice, but we need to take action – not just talk about taking action.
To start, we are taking the Black Lives Matter #WhatMatters2020 campaign pledge which focuses greatly on the electoral process, racial injustice, police brutality, criminal justice reform, black immigration, economic injustice, LGBTQIA+ and human rights, environmental conditions, voting rights and suppression, healthcare, government corruption, education, and commonsense gun laws, as well as the Sierra Club’s intersectional environmentalist pledge. The next step is to reach out and listen to those whose lives are directly affected and make sure we are responding to their priorities.
We will be actively working to incorporate this to our three issue areas of clean air, energy and climate, and radioactive waste, and develop concrete plans. Whether it’s increased exposure to air pollution in Salt Lake’s westside communities, the limited ways to mitigate the effects of climate change among low-income populations, or neglected uranium mine tailings on Navajo Nation land, all three of our issue areas, and each of the specific campaigns within them, are tied to environmental justice, equity, and health. Additionally, we will be looking internally at our own operations to see how our own practices and policies can improve.
But most of all, we know this needs to become part of our organizational culture, not just another campaign. We have a lot to learn and change for environmental justice to be an integral part of everything we do.
As Hip Hop Caucus’s Liv Havstad said “You can’t let yourself off the hook because you already do good in the world…How much good in the world are you really doing if you’re not doing everything you can to protect black lives?”