Environmental Justice: Youth Taking Action

headshot, young Latinx man, very short hair, mountain background.head shot, Asian-American young man, smiling, arms crossed, in front of trees and pondEnvironmental injustice looks different in different locations. For example, in my hometown the low-income neighborhoods are at least 10 degrees hotter than the wealthy neighborhoods. They have few trees and green spaces which means they lack protection from heat, the oxygen trees provide, and the beauty that comes with green spaces. This injustice impacts community members’ mental, physical, and spiritual health. 

Blessed Tomorrow hosted a three-part 2022 Let’s Talk Climate series (Find Here) that features the perspectives of different people working for environmental justice. 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.

The first episode features Huda Alkaff, Founder and Executive Director of Wisconsin Green Muslims* who has spent much of her life working for environmental justice and recently experienced great success. Huda advocated for an environmental justice office in Wisconsin for many years that finally opened in April 2022. 

The second episode features Rev. Dr. Loida Martell, Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs at Lexington Theological Seminary. Dr. Martell is a veterinary scientist, pastor, author, and academic who brings a theological perspective to environmental justice. 

The third episode features three amazing young climate and faith leaders. Cesar Almeida is the Youth Empowerment Coordinator with Faith in Place*. Cesar lives and works in Chicago and has passion around the intersection of environmental justice and the arts. William Morris is the Steering Committee Co-Chair for Young Evangelicals for Climate Action* (YECA). Will is located near Los Angeles in the shadow of a refinery. His passion is helping people connect their faith to environmental justice. Zavia Jenkins, a  YECA* Community Fellow, is a member of the Gullah/Geechee Nation and is located in Florida. She is passionate about the interconnectedness of people, lands, and oceans. 

Cesar, Will and Zavia share what injustice looks like in their communities. We learn what it is like to attend a school that has practice drills in order to be ready in case of an emergency at an oil refinery. We hear about the impacts that building and expanding roads and highways can have on a tight knit community and important culture. We hear of the layered injustice that heat and poverty have on marginalized communities in an urban city. 

These three leaders also inspire and empower us to be allies for justice. They provide hope by sharing their passions and creative energy. The prophet Micah tells us the Lord requires us to “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God” (6.8) and these three humans demonstrate what that looks like. 

Please watch this encouraging, short webcast and share it widely with your community. May we all be the change we need in this world. 

*This organization  was a finalist for the 2022 American Climate Leadership Award and received $10,000. You can learn more about them and how to replicate their programs here. The application process for the 2023 awards will launch on September 15th. Visit ecoamerica.org to learn more. If you have any questions, you can email acla@ecoamerica.org.

Additional Resources 

Young Evangelicals for Climate Action Replication Guide 

Wisconsin Green Muslims Replication Guide

Faith in Place Replication Guide  

17 principles of Environmental Justice 

Planet Chambo 

Gullah/Geechee Nation

Gullah/Geechee people, traditions need help from Build Back Better Act By Zavia Jenkins and Glenda Simmons Jenkins 

One Feeds The Other: The Cycle of Environmental and Social Injustice Impacts on Gullah/Geechee Heritage Sites By Representative Glenda Simmons-Jenkins 

Blessed Tomorrow Moving Forward Guide (in English & Spanish) 

President Biden Sees Climate Change as a Justice Issue, Do Americans?

5 Steps To Effective Climate Communication

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