How is Social Justice included in the Sustainability Office's Focus Areas?
Our goal of Carbon Neutral by 2025 focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We do this by investing in energy efficiency, transitioning to carbon neutral and renewable fuel sources, and offsetting the remaining emissions. By doing so, we lower our environmental impact in hopes to reduce the greenhouse effect. Climate change has been an ongoing issue for a long time, and with every year passing year, our Earth gets warmer. When we burn fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas, we are contributing the problem. Burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which contributes to climate change. There are many poor countries that do not contribute as much to climate change, yet they are the ones that are hit the hardest and feel the effects fist. Therefore people in poverty are the most vulnerable to climate change effects.
Hazardous waste facilities are commonly sited in minority neighborhoods. The PCB landfill in Warren County, North Carolina is considered the beginning of the modern environmental justice movement. In 1982, a small African-American community in Warren County, North Carolina was chosen to host a hazardous waste landfill where PCB laden toxic waste would be landfilled, despite a high water table making the area unsuitable for this type of landfill. The Warren County residents felt that they were being targeted based on their minority. In September 1982, over 500 environmentalists and civil right activists protested the PCB landfill. Although it was unsuccessful in stopping the construction, this event has been deemed as the catalyst for the Environmental Justice movement.
Macalester College President Rosenberg signed the Real Food Challenge in 2012, committing the college to increase the amount of local, organic and/or fair trade food served in the dining hall, as well as educating about food issues. Organic food and local food are often expensive and hard to obtain in low income areas. Affluent people expect a variety of fresh foods, even when the local area cannot produce the food. In addition, a social justice issue in food is the lack of living wages for food service, agricultural, and food processing workers.
Wellness and Health
Health and wellness are often connected through food, air and water pollution. In 2014, over 100,000 Flint, Michigan residents were exposed to high levels of lead in their drinking water due to the water source being contaminated. In order to “save money”, Flint’s water source was switched to Flint River rather than the previous, clean Lake Huron water from Detroit. This connects to social justice in that the community of Flint did not receive safe, clean water as they should and therefore caused many human health effects.
People living in urban areas live with environmental issues such as lead in paint and soil, air pollution and water pollution. However, urban areas also have public transportation systems and networks of bike lanes and trails that reduce air pollution, but also offer a healthier alternative to driving. The United Nations Sustainable Development goals include: 1. no poverty 2. zero hunger 3. good health and well-being 4. quality education 5. gender equality 6. clean water and sanitation 7. affordable and clean energy 8. decent work and economic growth 9. industry, innovation and infrastructure 10. reduced inequalities 11. sustainable cities and communities 12. responsible consumption and production 13. climate action 14. life below water 15. life on land 16. peace justice and strong institutions 17. partnerships for the goals.
More information found at: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/?menu=1300
Education for Sustainability
Suzanne Savanick Hansen and Debra Rowe wrote in the Sustainable Development Primer for Higher Education Presidents, Chancellors, Trustees and Senior Leaders, “ Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) enables people to develop the knowledge, values and skills to participate in decisions that will improve the quality of life now without damaging the planet for the future (UNESCO). ESD is increasingly recognized as essential to higher education’s mission of making the world a better place and preparing students for the world in which they will live. All graduates in all fields will face challenges regarding how our societies address urgent environmental issues (e.g. climate change), social issues (e.g. meeting basic human needs) and economic issues (e.g. economic security). Incorporating sustainability into education prepares these graduates with both the knowledge and skills to help contribute to a better world and also be better prepared to enter the workforce. The essential components of quality sustainability assignments (i.e. focus on creating solutions and solving real world problems) improves both student learning and recruitment, and is increasingly expected by both students and employers.”