Environmental Justice

“The system that created inequality in terms of pollution choking our neighborhoods is the same system that’s choking Black people and brown people when it comes to policing,” says Dr. Robert Bullard, a scholar whose work earned him the moniker “the father of environmental justice.”

While the environmental movement has taken a conservation approach to protecting the natural environment, environmental justice acknowledges how communities of color experience significantly more pollution, food deserts, and water shortages, due to systemic racism entrenched in Community Planning and neighborhoods that continue to be segregated. In 2016, Indigenous youth stood up to the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, calling out the con [...]


Why Climate Action is the Antithesis of White Supremacy
Rebecca Solnit
The Guardian
Environmental Justice: Moving Equity from Margins to Mainstream
Deeohn Ferris
Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ)
In the Wake of the Storm: Environment, Disaster, and Race After Katrina
Manuel Pastor, Robert D. Bullard, James K. Boyce, Alice Fothergill, Rachel Morello-Frosch, and Beverly Wright
Russell Sage Foundation

Climate Change and Water Justice

Climate Innovation
Movement Strategy Center
Watered Down Justice
Kristi Pullen Fedinick, Steve Taylor, Michele Roberts
Natural Resources Defense Council
Reconciling the Past May Be the Only Way to a Sustainable Future
Trisha Kehaulani Watson-Sproat
Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ)
A People’s Orientation to a Regenerative Economy: Protect, Repair, Invest, and Transform
United Frontline Table
Initiative Takes on Water Systems, Climate Change, and Inequity
Dr. Jalonne L. White-Newsome
Water Online
Water Rising: Equitable Approaches to Urban Flooding
Radhika Fox and Mami Hara
U.S. Water Alliance
Climate Refugees: The Climate Crisis and Rights Denied
Hossein Ayazi and Elsadig Elsheikh
Othering & Belonging Institute
Everybody’s Movement: Environmental Justice and Climate Change
Angela Park
Environmental Support Center
Fourth National Climate Assessment - Tribes and Indigenous Peoples
U.S. Global Change Research Program
The Flint Water Crisis: Systemic Racism Through the Lens of Flint
Dan Levy et al.
Michigan Civil Rights Commission (MCRC)
Water Equity and Security in Detroit’s Water and Sewer District
Anna Recchie, Joseph J. Recchie, john a. powell, Lauren Lyons, Ponsella Hardaway, and Wendy Ake
Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society; MOSES; Praxia Partners

History of Environmental Racism and Justice Movements

Environmentalism’s Racist History
Jedediah Purdy
The New Yorker
The Environmental Movement Needs to Reckon With Its Racist History
Julian Brave Noise Cat
Climate Inequality: Forgotten History
Dr. Cecilia Martinez and Shalini Gupta
Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy
Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality
Robert D. Bullard
The Environmental Justice Movement
Renee Skelton and Vernice Miller 
Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty: 1987-2007 – Grassroots Struggles to Dismantle Environmental Racism in the United States
Robert D. Bullard, Paul Mohai, Robin Saha, and Beverly Wright
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries


Organizing and Activism

Imagine 2200: Climate Fiction
Fix Solution Lab, Grist
Strengthening Communities and Shifting Power in Pursuit of a Just Transition
Iris M. Crawford
YES! Magazine
How Native and White Communities Make Alliances to Protect the Earth
Mary Annette Pember
YES! Magazine
Environmental Justice Leadership Forum on Climate Change - Principles
EJ Leadership Forum Principles
Fertile Ground: Women Organizing at the Intersection of Environmental Justice and Reproductive Justice
Kristen Zimmerman and Vera Miao
Movement Strategy Center (MSC)
Organizing Cools the Planet: Tools and Reflection to Navigate the Climate Crisis
Hilary Moore and Joshua Kahn Russell
Organizing Cools the Planet
Principles of Environmental Justice
The First People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit
Regeneration: Young People Shaping Environmental Justice
Julie Quiroz-Martinez, Diana Pei Wu, and Kristen Zimmerman
Movement Strategy Center (MSC)
Targeting “Cerrell” Communities
J. Stephen Powell, Cerrell Associates
Energy Justice Network; Center for Health, Environment and Justice; California Waste Management Board
The Red Deal: Indigenous Action to Save Our Planet - Part Three: Heal Our Planet
The Red Nation
We Are Mother Earth’s Red Line: Frontline Communities Lead the Climate Justice Fight
Center for Story-based Strategy

Tools and Resources

Indigenous Communities and Environmental Justice
Raymond Foxworth, First Nations Development Institute
Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ)
From the Margins to the Mainstream: Lessons from the Clean Power Plan for Alignment, Leadership, and Environmental Justice
Ife Kilimanjaro and Antonio Lopez
Building Equity and Alignment for Impact
Green Equity Toolkit: Standards and Strategies for Advancing Race, Gender and Economic Equity in the Green Economy
Yvonne Yen Liu and Terry Keleher
Applied Research Center
Leaking Talent: How People of Color Are Pushed Out of Environmental Organizations
Stefanie K. Johnson
Green 2.0
Risk Assessments vs. Alternatives Assessments: Who Get the Benefits and Who Get the Risks? Who Decides?
Energy Justice Network; Rachel’s News
The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations
Dorceta E. Taylor
University of Michigan, School of Natural Resources & Environment

“When the forest is destroyed, when the river is dammed, when the biodiversity is stolen, when fields are waterlogged or turned saline because of economic activities, it is a question of survival for these people. So our environmental movements have been justice movements.”

~ Vandana Shiva, Author


Racism and Climate Change Are About You – Dr. Atyia Martin, TEDxDirigo

Also in this section:
  • Addressing Hate and White Supremacy

  • Criminal Justice

  • Education

  • Health and Healthcare

  • Language Justice

  • Reparations

  • Voting Justice and Democracy Building

  • Children, Families, and Youth Development

  • Economic Development

  • Employment and Labor

  • Housing

  • Media and Technology

  • Reproductive Justice

  • Community Planning: Land and Transportation

  • Economic Security

  • Food Justice

  • Immigration and Refugee Rights

  • Philanthropy

  • Trauma, Violence, and Healing



In the context of racial equity work, accountability refers to the ways in which individuals and communities hold themselves to their goals and actions, and acknowledge the values and groups to which they are responsible.

To be accountable, one must be visible, with a transparent agenda and process. Invisibility defies examination; it is, in fact, employed in order to avoid detection and examination. Accountability demands commitment. It might be defined as “what kicks in when convenience runs out.” Accountability requires some sense of urgency and becoming a true stakeholder in the outcome. Accountability can be externally imposed (legal or organizational requirements), or internally applied (moral, relational, faith-based, or recognized as some combination of the two) on a continuum from the institutional and organizational level to the individual level. From a relational point of view, accountability is not always doing it right. Sometimes it’s really about what happens after it’s done wrong.

SOURCE:  Accountability and White Anti-Racist Organizing: Stories from Our Work, Bonnie Berman Cushing with Lila Cabbil, Margery Freeman, Jeff Hitchcock, and Kimberly Richards (2010). 

Related Resources:  Accountability

Location: PLAN / Change Process

Black Lives Matter

A political movement to address systemic and state violence against African Americans. Per the Black Lives Matter organizers: “In 2013, three radical Black organizers—Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi—created a Black-centered political will and movement building project called #BlackLivesMatter. It was in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman. The project is now a member-led global network of more than 40 chapters. [Black Lives Matter] members organize and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.” 

SOURCE:  Black Lives Matter, “Herstory” (accessed 7 October 2019).


When people act to perpetuate oppression or prevent others from working to eliminate oppression. 

Example: Able-bodied people who object to strategies for making buildings accessible because of the expense.

SOURCE:  Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook, edited by Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell, and Pat Griffin (Routledge, 1997).

Institutional Racism

Institutional racism refers specifically to the ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes for different racial groups. The institutional policies may never mention any racial group, but their effect is to create advantages for whites and oppression and disadvantage for people from groups classified as people of color.


  • Government policies that explicitly restricted the ability of people to get loans to buy or improve their homes in neighborhoods with high concentrations of African Americans (also known as “red-lining”).

  • City sanitation department policies that concentrate trash transfer stations and other environmental hazards disproportionately in communities of color.

SOURCE:  Flipping the Script: White Privilege and Community Building by Maggie Potapchuk, Sally Leiderman, Donna Bivens, and Barbara Major (2005).

Related Resources:  Racism (scroll down alphabetically to the box for “Institutional Racism”)

Location: FUNDAMENTALS / Core Concepts

Movement Building

Movement building is the effort of social change agents to engage power holders and the broader society in addressing a systemic problem or injustice while promoting an alternative vision or solution. Movement building requires a range of intersecting approaches through a set of distinct stages over a long-term period of time. Through movement building, organizers can:

  • Propose solutions to the root causes of social problems.

  • Enable people to exercise their collective power.

  • Humanize groups that have been denied basic human rights and improve conditions for the groups affected.

  • Create structural change by building something larger than a particular organization or campaign.

  • Promote visions and values for society based on fairness, justice, and democracy.

SOURCE:  Julie Quiroz-Martinez, From the Roots: Building the Power of Communities of Color to Challenge Structural Racism (Akonadi Foundation, 2010), citing the Movement Strategy Center, which offers these further definitions.

Related Resources:  Movement Building

Location: PLAN / Change Process


The systematic subjugation of one social group by a more powerful social group for the social, economic, and political benefit of the more powerful social group. Rita Hardiman and Bailey Jackson state that oppression exists when the following 4 conditions are found:

  • the oppressor group has the power to define reality for themselves and others,

  • the target groups take in and internalize the negative messages about them and end up cooperating with the oppressors (thinking and acting like them),

  • genocide, harassment, and discrimination are systematic and institutionalized, so that individuals are not necessary to keep it going, and

  • members of both the oppressor and target groups are socialized to play their roles as normal and correct.

Oppression = Power + Prejudice

SOURCE:  What Is Racism?” − Dismantling Racism Works (dRworks) web workbook.

Racial Inequity

Racial inequity is when two or more racial groups are not standing on approximately equal footing, such as the percentages of each ethnic group in terms of dropout rates, single family home ownership, access to healthcare, etc.

SOURCE:  Ibram X. Kendi, How To Be An Antiracist, Random House, 2019.

Racist Policies

A racist policy is any measure that produces or sustains racial inequity between or among racial groups. Policies are written and unwritten laws, rules, procedures, processes, regulations, and guidelines that govern people. There is no such thing as a nonracist or race-neutral policy. Every policy in every institution in every community in every nation is producing or sustaining either racial inequity or equity between racial groups. Racist policies are also expressed through other terms such as “structural racism” or “systemic racism”. Racism itself is institutional, structural, and systemic.

SOURCE:  Ibram X. Kendi, How To Be An Antiracist, Random House, 2019.

Related Resources:  Laws and Policies

Location: FUNDAMENTALS / History of Racism and Movements

For specific topics, also see PLAN / Issues


States have a legal duty to acknowledge and address widespread or systematic human rights violations, in cases where the state caused the violations or did not seriously try to prevent them. Reparations initiatives seek to address the harms caused by these violations. They can take the form of compensating for the losses suffered, which helps overcome some of the consequences of abuse. They can also be future oriented—providing rehabilitation and a better life to victims—and help to change the underlying causes of abuse. Reparations publicly affirm that victims are rights-holders entitled to redress.

SOURCE:  International Center for Transitional Justice.

Related Resources:  Reparations

Location: PLAN / Issues

Structural Racism

  1. The normalization and legitimization of an array of dynamics – historical, cultural, institutional, and interpersonal – that routinely advantage Whites while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color. Structural racism encompasses the entire system of White domination, diffused and infused in all aspects of society including its history, culture, politics, economics, and entire social fabric. Structural racism is more difficult to locate in a particular institution because it involves the reinforcing effects of multiple institutions and cultural norms, past and present, continually reproducing old and producing new forms of racism. Structural racism is the most profound and pervasive form of racism – all other forms of racism emerge from structural racism.

  2. For example, we can see structural racism in the many institutional, cultural, and structural factors that contribute to lower life expectancy for African American and Native American men, compared to white men. These include higher exposure to environmental toxins, dangerous jobs and unhealthy housing stock, higher exposure to and more lethal consequences for reacting to violence, stress, and racism, lower rates of health care coverage, access, and quality of care, and systematic refusal by the nation to fix these things.


  1. Chronic Disparity: Strong and Pervasive Evidence of Racial Inequalities by Keith Lawrence, Aspen Institute on Community Change, and Terry Keleher, Applied Research Center, for the Race and Public Policy Conference (2004).

  2. Flipping the Script: White Privilege and Community Building by Maggie Potapchuk, Sally Leiderman, Donna Bivens, and Barbara Major (2005).

Related Resources:  Structural Racism

Location: FUNDAMENTALS / Core Concepts

White Supremacy

The idea (ideology) that white people and the ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions of white people are superior to People of Color and their ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions. While most people associate white supremacy with extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the neo-Nazis, white supremacy is ever present in our institutional and cultural assumptions that assign value, morality, goodness, and humanity to the white group while casting people and communities of color as worthless (worth less), immoral, bad, and inhuman and “undeserving.” Drawing from critical race theory, the term “white supremacy” also refers to a political or socio-economic system where white people enjoy structural advantage and rights that other racial and ethnic groups do not, both at a collective and an individual level.

SOURCE: “What Is Racism?” − Dismantling Racism Works (dRworks) web workbook.

Related Resources:  System of White Supremacy and White Privilege and Addressing Hate and White Supremacy

Locations: FUNDAMENTALS / Core Concepts and PLAN / Issues