Each year, around the world, the International Day of Peace is observed on September 21 in order to strengthen the ideals of peace. In conjunction with this day, Loras’ Peace and Justice Week highlights the work of campus groups working for peace and justice. This year the week focuses on the theme of environmental justice. We welcome guest blogger, Katie Walsh, Peace & Justice Intern, to share more about this theme.
The 1960s is well-known for its social justice politics, especially racial equality, but also for other issues like environmentalism. It is perhaps no surprise, then, that this period is responsible for the term “environmental justice”, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines as “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”. Put simply, this means that everyone deserves to have a say in how we protect our environment, and everyone deserves to be equally protected from environmental hazards; the rich should not have more say than the poor, nor should impoverished immigrant neighborhoods be more toxic than rich white ones.
This ideal is not currently being lived out. Toxic waste, for example, is more likely to be dumped close to people living in poverty than it is near people with abundant financial resources. People with more money, time, and education can fight against becoming neighbors with toxic waste and are more likely to know how to go about doing that in the first place. Even if the privileged fail in these efforts, they have the resources to move to healthier areas. Thus, people lacking resources end up with the dump in their neighborhood. The point of environmental justice, like all social justice movements, is not to make people with more resources worse-off, but to make sure everyone enjoys the benefits typically associated with privilege.
Although environmental justice is a concept for people of all, it is especially important to the Catholic tradition. In Laudato Si’, his encyclical focused on environmental justice, Pope Francis sums up the environmental justice movement when he writes, “we are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.” Inspired by Pope Francis, Loras College has signed on to the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, a seven-year journey towards environmental justice for Catholic institutions.
You can learn more about the events planned for Peace and Justice Week here. Also, for more information about environmental justice, please see the book display on the main floor of the library, see the ebooks linked above, or ask a librarian for assistance.