Casting your Ballot for Environmental Justice
September 8, 2022
5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
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This event brought together leading social justice and civil rights scholars to discuss the intersection of voting, civil disobedience, and environmental justice. Included were civil rights leader Jennifer Lawson, a longtime advocate of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Former Chief Programming Executive at PBS; Allison Riggs of the Voting Rights Program at the Southern Coalition of Social Justice, and Kym Meyer of the Southern Environmental Law Center.
Event partners include the Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute, The Southern Environmental Law Center, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, and the Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability.
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.
This recap was written by Cameron Oglesby (MPP ’23).
Watch the Recording:
To learn more about the 40th anniversary of the Environmental Justice Movement click here.
Click here to watch the panel on our YouTube channel
Additionally, check out the Chronicle’s coverage of the event.