This morning I am reminded of one of my favorite poems "A small needful fact." It sits at an intersection for me. An important reminder of the crossroads between environmentalism, environmental justice, and social justice issues. Eric Garner who had asthma, was among those people of color who often face higher exposure to pollutants and who often experience greater responses to such pollution through disease and health issues. We cannot deny this intersection. To truly address environmental issues that impact us all we have to address the social issues that impact some of us more.
Many people will only know of Eric Garner as the man who died in a police choke-hold in 2014. But I like to think of him as a gardener. I hope you enjoy the poem.
A small needful fact
By Ross Gay
Is that Eric Garner worked
for some time for the Parks and Rec.
Horticultural Department, which means,
perhaps, that with his very large hands,
perhaps, in all likelihood,
he put gently into the earth
some plants which, most likely,
some of them, in all likelihood,
continue to grow, continue
to do what such plants do, like house
and feed small and necessary creatures,
like being pleasant to touch and smell,
like converting sunlight
into food, like making it easier
for us to breathe.
The sun may shine indiscriminately but studies show that children of color deal with the effects of pollution a disproportionate amount. We believe all have the right to clean air, water and land. To address these inequities we have to begin with education. Privilege is often invisible to those that hold it. So educating ourselves and those in our network about the disparities that exists is important.We must define environmental justice in our organizations. We must understand how environmental justice affects air and water quality and the health of communities we partner with.
If you want to learn more here are some resources:
Environmental justice, explained
We can’t truly protect the environment unless we tackle social justice issues, too
Air Pollution, Asthma, and Children of Color
Study finds a race gap in air pollution — whites largely cause it; blacks and Hispanics breathe it