In another effort to bridge the sustainability gaps in our society today, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson called for more diversity in environmentalism yesterday. Speaking to the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, she stated clearly that low-income and minority groups are often hit the hardest by environmental problems. “The place where I grew up is like other places in this country. Places where the burden of pollution and environmental degradation falls disproportionately on low-income and minority communities – and most often, on the children in those communities.”
Echoing Obama’s consistent call for more involvement from the citizenry, Jackson said, “As EPA Administrator, it’s an essential part of my mission to show all Americans that this agency works for them. But we can’t do that without your help.” This may seem like a way of avoiding responsibility at the higher level, but I think it is a true sign of leadership to say that they cannot lead unless there are people behind them who they are leading. A key role of a leader is to get the rest of the supporters to be involved.
Jackson also stated that this issue of Environmental Justice was a key one of hers from day one. “I made a point in my first day memo to all EPA employees that our efforts should focus on helping people in underserved and highly vulnerable populations.” She went on to discuss initiatives and activities her and the EPA are engaged in to make Environmental Justice a bigger priority.
Jackson not only said that Environmental Justice needed to be a bigger priority, though, she continued to say that there needed to be more involvement from minority groups and all members of society. In a noble effort to reach out and expand environmentalism, Jackson said, “environmentalism does not come in any one shape, size, or look…. we need help from more than just the people who label themselves as ‘environmentalists.'”
A few days before this, we saw the NAACP responding to this call ahead of time and making the link the other way. At its 100th annual meeting, the NAACP passed a resolution to support climate and energy legislation.
The new EPA administrator did more than link environmentalism and equity issues. She also linked environmentalism to economic issues. “We have in President Obama a leader who rejects the false choice between a green environment and a green economy…. As we see this new economy growing – green jobs, green collar, green energy – some communities who may feel separate from environmental issues suddenly have a real stake in the debate because they have a chance to get those jobs.”
This speech and the issues she is working on are exactly what is at the root of sustainability theory. It is honorable again to be an American!
To read Lisa Jackson’s full speech to the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, click here.
For more on sustainability theory and the link between the environment, equity, and the economy, click here.
Image credit: osawaa via flickr under a Creative Commons license