Presenter: Rebecca Tsosie, Professor of Law, Arizona State University
Tsosie, Rebecca, "Indigenous Peoples and Environmental Justice: The Impact of Climate Change" (2007). The Climate of Environmental Justice: Taking Stock (March 16-17).
Environmental Justice and the Current Social and Political Climate
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On March 16-17, The Climate of Environmental Justice: Taking Stock conference gathered 125 academics and practitioners from around the country to consider the pressing issues facing low-income and/or communities of color that continue to be subjected to a disproportionate share of environmental maladies.
"Some people are more equal than others when it comes to bracing ourselves for the impacts of climate change," said conference organizer Professor Maxine Burkett. "Whether it's because poor folks lived in the lowest areas of New Orleans when Katrina floodwaters rushed in, or are less able to afford the cooling bill during increasingly frequent heat waves, impoverished communities and communities of color are really bearing the brunt of a more unstable climate. On the heels of the most recent findings on the urgency of the climate crisis, we’re looking forward to talking about its impacts on those who are most vulnerable."
The environmental justice movement has long been concerned with the disproportionate impacts of pollution and industrial waste on poor communities, and climate change adds another dimension of urgency to the field. Twenty years ago, the concept of “environmental justice” emerged in force, and the conference will provide an opportunity to reflect on the impact of two decades of effort in the face of a largely hostile political arena. Specifically, the conference will seek to identify innovative legal and policy options to improve the conditions of low-income and/or communities of color that are most affected by inequitable environmental practices.
On the evening of March 16, the keynote session included a talk by U.S. Representative Mark Udall (D-CO), who reflected on his introduction of environmental justice and climate change legislation in Washington, D.C. He was followed by Jerome Ringo, who emerged from the Bayous of Southern Louisiana to become the Chair of the National Wildlife Federation and President of the national Apollo Alliance. Then, Denver environmental law practitioner Willie Shepherd led a discussion about environmental justice issues in Colorado.
On March 17, panels discussed the status of the environmental justice movement, new issues related to climate change, and potential policy solutions that will help environmental justice practitioners in the field move forward.