Intersectional environmental justice: Centering Black women’s experience to contest persistent environmental injustices

Authors: Ellen Kohl*, St. Mary's College of Maryland
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Ethnicity and Race, Gender
Keywords: Black Geographies, Environmental Justice, Intersectionality, Black feminist thought
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Rampart, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The majority of environmental justice campaigns are led by women of color. Even though they are at the center of the on the ground experiences, they are often not centered in environmental justice research. Drawing on over five years of participant observation with the Newtown Florist Club (NFC), a social and environmental justice organization in Gainesville, Georgia, I examine how a theoretical emphasis on intersectionality and a methodological commitment to Black women’s standpoint through storytelling and everyday talk creates a framework within which we can assess the seemingly impossible battles that environmental justice activists continually fight. I contend that an intersectional approach to environmental justice research highlights how intersecting socio-spatial oppressions create and maintain places of persistent environmental injustice. Drawing on the experiences of the women of the NFC, I argue that since their lives are structured by intersectional oppressions, research on the injustices facing their community must, therefore, mirror this intersectional approach. It is not enough to think about either one cause of environmental injustice or another cause, we have to think of both one cause and all the other causes of these injustices. In conclusion, I argue that an intersectional approach requires us to acknowledge that environmental justice communities were created based on white supremacist, patriarchal, capitalist systems, and it is only by dismantling these systems that true change will come to these communities.

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