Environmental Justice at WashU

This year, the introduction of a new executive administration has brought new challenges and awareness of environmental justice issues. Flint, Michigan is still feeling the effects of lead-contaminated drinking water through the city’s economic disparities. President Trump’s Executive Order recently sought to repeal the Clean Power Plan; but environmental groups, as well as some notable business executives, are fighting back. And new connections are beginning to form between unlikely alliances, such as the women’s right movement and the environmental movement, to reduce the effects of climate change.

“Environmental justice” describes a movement that encompasses all of these issues and more. It lies between social justice and environmentalism. Environmental justice (EJ) promotes the idea that everyone should have equal access to resources and that environmental burdens should not be placed unequally upon those who are unable to bear them. The Environmental Justice Initiative at WashU hopes to bring awareness to the issues St. Louis faces among faculty, staff, students, and the regional community; and we hope to further solution-building connections among interdisciplinary partners.

This semester, the Office of Sustainability’s Environmental Justice Team has worked to improve and advance the Environmental Justice Initiative. Launched last spring, the Environmental Justice Initiative seeks to integrate environmental justice into Washington University’s teaching, research, and service by bringing together students, faculty, and community members around key environmental justice concerns in the St. Louis metropolitan region. Throughout the semester, the Environmental Justice Team has continued to improve the Environmental Justice Initiative website. To increase collaboration and connectivity, we are encouraging faculty and staff whose work is connected to environmental justice to support the Initiative by creating a profile. Simply fill out this form to participate in our website listing.

In addition, the Environmental Justice Team has been focusing on furthering the discussion of environmental justice issues among students, faculty, and staff. On behalf of the Office of Sustainability, the EJ Team has attended student group meetings and interviewed faculty and staff members to gain a better understanding of current efforts. To spur the discussion further, we are hosting an Ice Cream Social on April 25th at 6pm. The event is geared toward encouraging students to network with other students on campus and to foster connections and garner support for the Initiative. The event will feature locally-made ice cream from Green Dining Alliance-certified Clementine’s and a “speed dating” approach to connecting new partners.

Written by Amber Krisp and Annalise Wagner, Office Associates on the Environmental Justice Team and students at Washington University.