Environmental Justice

Published on February 20th, 2018 | by GrowWNYAdmin

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Justice & Ecology & Community

Written by: Adrienne Bermingham, Roots & Shoots National Program Manager, the Jane Goodall Institute

I am a Western New Yorker, born and raised in the suburbs of Buffalo. I am a millennial. I work in the nonprofit sector. I am a woman. These characteristics also define some of the “communities” that I belong to.

On January 19, I joined a new community. On a brisk, wintery day in Delaware Park, I was one of approximately 30 WNYers who came together for WNYEA’s Justice & Ecology Retreat. Members of our group hailed from all walks of life including an 8-year-old who led us on a nature walk and a woman whose arsenal of life experiences provides her with wisdom to spare. Our group checked egos at the door and quickly established a safe space for honesty, vulnerability, and openness. Together we were about to explore some sensitive, potentially polarizing topics.

Our curriculum for the day-and-a-half retreat, developed by Oakland-based organization Movement Generation, considered the undeniable and critical interconnectedness of our ecosystem, ecology and biodiversity, economy and government, societal beliefs and norms, and ecological and social justice. Whoa, that’s a lot to take in. Our facilitators carefully walked us through a substantive amount of content starting with a dissection of the term ECONOMY. A term that, at its core, means the management of home — something that humans are not doing responsibility right now. As human population grows, our unsustainable habits abound and many prefer ignorance and bliss rather than face the reality that resources are dwindling, biodiversity is suffering, and certain communities are already paying the price. Here is where we expand our lens further…

Perhaps one of the most powerful presentations of the retreat was delivered by India Walton of Open Buffalo. She bravely took on the task of explaining why young, black men and women ought to be at the front of conversations about ecological justice and restoration. For it is these individuals who live in communities that are already experiencing the negative impacts of an extractive economy — one grounded in consumerism, colonialism, militarism, and systematic racism. It is these individuals who will lead conversations that ensure not only a transition to a healthy “regenerative economy,” but that that transition is nondiscriminatory. It is in this pursuit of a “just transition” that we may be able to facilitate on a true shift away from the destructive, inequitable practices that have become commonplace in our economy. And all this in pursuit of a better future for our planet…people, animals, and the environment.

At the conclusion of our program, our new community had been established. Despite our many differences, we share a strong desire to see a bright future for the people in our lives, the city we share, the biodiversity that surrounds us, and the Earth we rely on.

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