After being involved in engaged scholarship in the field of environmental studies, I thought I would start thinking more seriously on what kind of environmental justice frame I am working on. Although I environmental justice may not necessarily my initial entry in my work, my environmental-related work has brought me to the issues of power across race, ethnicity, and class. So I have some knowledge and experience relevant to the conversations.
Based on my practice, and my reading, I would frame my environmental justice in three approaches.
First, it explores the interdisciplinary nature of environmental studies that goes beyond a risk-avoidant mode type of discussion, and focuses more on the people who are both affecting and being affected by the risks.
The risk avoidant-mode is a very much science-driven mode. It automatically eliminates community members or stakeholders who do not have adequate scientific knowledge to support their participation in the discussion. The conversations around EJ need to be conducted in an interdisciplinary way, looking at non-scientific issues as well.
Second, it integrates conversations around community organizing that is focused on civic engagement to recognize power dynamic.
In the early stage, EJ was led by leaders from the civil rights movements, a movement that was fundamentally grassroots. As these initial EJ leaders reached out to a stronger and well-established environmental groups (at the time was in the 1960s), EJ has started to shift to the kind of movement that followed models adopted by conservationists and preservationists. It is more about basic education and less on typical community organizing. As a result, EJ movements have not made significant difference, especially when it comes to promoting sustainable behavior change.
Lastly, it connects with immediate community issues to reframe the environmental issues in a more relatable way to the communities.
Research shows that environmental issue is not a stand-alone issue. Some people with a strong ideological basis will live in a sustainable way; they are more of the upper-middle-class demographic or higher. In order to engage broader participants, EJ needs to integrate da-to-day social issues so that we can frame EJ in a way that will be more essential to the untapped group. This way, community development approaches would be more apparent in the process.