How You Can Advocate for Environmental Justice

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

Every year on April 22nd, we raise awareness about the importance of protecting our planet. While Earth Day is a day for everyone to reflect on their impact on the environment and take steps to reduce it, it’s also important that we recognize the intersection of environmental issues with social justice.

Environmental justice is the idea that everyone, regardless of their socioeconomic status, race, or location, has the right to a clean and healthy environment. This includes clean and drinkable water, smog-free air, and readily available fresh food. Unfortunately, marginalized communities, particularly communities of color, often bear the brunt of environmental injustice. 

The effects of environmental injustice can be devastating. People living in polluted environments are at a higher risk of health problems, including asthma and cancer. Lack of access to necessities like clean water, healthy food, and clean air dramatically decreases these communities’ quality of life.

For women and girls, the impact of environmental injustice can be even worse. Studies have found that 80% of people displaced by climate change in particular are women. The health and economic impacts of droughts, lack of food, and environmental disasters are also disproportionately felt by women.

Environmental injustice also exacerbates existing gender inequalities, including gender-based violence. In societies where the burden of procuring food, water, and fuel fall on women, young girls often find themselves forced to miss school or drop out altogether to help their mothers with providing for their families. Educational opportunities for women and girls in marginalized communities are therefore limited even further, preventing them from entering rewarding careers later in life. 

As we continue to fight for environmental justice, it’s critical that we understand that empowering women is the key to solving climate crises all over the world. Research conducted by Women Deliver has shown that countries with a high representation of women as elected officials are more likely to ratify international environmental treaties.

As young women continue to enter the realm of politics and advocacy, their role in bringing about environmental justice for all has become more defined. Many have assumed organizing roles in grassroots efforts to take action for the Earth. Young women like Nemonte Nenquimo, Greta Thunburg, Kelsey Cascadia Rose Juliana, and IGNITE alum Mary Black have all taken direct action on environmental issues and garnered support for change.

For everyday people, however, taking on an issue as big as the environment can be extremely daunting. Here are 5 ways you can get involved in the fight for environmental justice: 

  1. Educate yourself. Taking the opportunity to learn about the environmental issues affecting your community and the world at large will go a long way toward solving the problems we’re facing today. This can include reading news articles, attending local events on environmental action, and researching organizations working on these issues.
  2. Advocate for change. If you want to make environmental justice a reality, use your voice to raise awareness about environmental issues and advocate for policies that address them. This can include reaching out to your elected officials, attending public hearings and city council meetings, and participating in protests that highlight environmental injustice.
  3. Support environmental organizers. There are many organizations fighting for environmental justice and working to solve the environmental issues our communities are facing. Consider getting involved with these organizations to support their work.
  4. Reduce your environmental impact. While systemic change is needed to address environmental injustice, we as individuals can also make a difference. Taking deliberate steps to reduce our impact on the environment can include reducing energy use, using reusable bags and bottles, and eating locally sourced produce.
  5. Run for office. Environmental justice won’t be achievable without elected officials dedicated to making it a reality. If you’re passionate about influencing policy that will address environmental issues and making a difference in your community, run for office on a platform of saving our planet. Young women in particular can receive the training, resources, and network of support they need to get elected from IGNITE, a nonprofit organization dedicated to unlocking young women’s political power.

Earth Day isn’t just about admiring flowers and planting trees. Today, and every day, is an important opportunity to reflect on our impact on the planet and take action to address the environmental issues our communities are facing. Recognizing the connection between environmental justice and gender equity will also help reduce the burden on women in times of difficulty.

Overall, by working together, we can create a more just and sustainable world for everyone.

Check out some recommended reading on environmental justice below:

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