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Cameron Oglesby (MPP ’23) on “Casting Your Ballot for Environmental Justice”

Cameron Oglesby is a Master of Public Policy Candidate (’23) studying environmental & energy policy, corporate sustainability, and environmental justice, as well as one of the main organizers of a semester long celebration of 40 years of the Environmental Justice Movement. Read on to hear her reflections on the September 8th panel “Casting Your Ballot for Environmental Justice.”

As I’ve found myself diving deeper and deeper into environmental justice – its grounding in systemic disenfranchisement and its foundations in Civil Rights – there has been a common and not-often-named thread of democratic value within the movement.

I feel like when people think of environmental justice they think of protesting power plants or hog facilities or litigation. But there is an additional relationship between electoral decisions – in addressing climate change, investing in energy, instituting restorative and distributive justice – and the facilities that ultimately and disproportionately set up near low-income communities, rural communities, and communities of color. This is a relationship easily broken through active participation in electrical processes.

This event shed a critical light on the important relationship between voting and environmental justice historically and in modern day, doing so from the perspective of those who have and continue to work on the ground and in the courtroom to ensure everyone has the right to vote. Perhaps even more powerful are the connections drawn between fighting for voting rights and the first amendment right to protest when electoral processes break down.

As we come up on the midterms this November, it’s critical people regardless of political leaning understand that environmental justice and climate justice are on the ballot. That’s the dialogue that this event started and its one we hope continues within academic spaces at Duke.