Reflection on “Moving Environmental Justice Forward: Assessing Cumulative Impacts and Developing Policy Frameworks”

There is no way to deny the impacts of climate change on the health and welfare of our communities – specifically communities of color and/or those that are low income. From April 11-13, environmental justice leaders from across the United States gathered in Washington DC to discuss climate change and other key issues that contribute to adding harmful emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere.  This inaugural meeting, “Moving Environmental Justice Forward: Assessing Cumulative Impacts and Developing Policy Frameworks”, was a joint partnership between WE ACT for Environmental Justice, the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum on Climate Change, the University of Maryland, American Public Health Association, Maryland Department of Community Health and Mental Hygiene, supported by the Kresge Foundation, Kellogg Foundation, the George Washington University, and the Cedar Tree Foundation. The Environmental Justice Leadership Forum on Climate Change (EJLFCC) (www.ejleadershipforum.org), in a joint meeting with Mid-Atlantic environmental leaders (including community leaders, academia, local, state and federal governmental allies), came together to discuss strategies to tackle hydraulic fracturing, cumulative risk assessment and the concerns around air pollution in our EJ communities.  The EJLFCC is a national coalition whose mission is to mobilize and facilitate a national working group of environmental justice advocates who will interact with identified scientists/academics and representatives of mainstream environmental groups to catalyze and inform state and federal, political and legislative action that will result in the development of just policies and mechanisms that equitably reduce carbon emissions in all communities.  The EJLFCC left this meeting with a renewed sense of purpose, momentum and looks forward to amplifying an environmental justice perspective on climate change and related impacts, and working together with newly identified collaborators.  Climate justice can be achieved – and we have the leaders to move forward with thoughtful solutions and creative policy frameworks to protect those most at risk.

Dr. Jalonne L. White-Newsome