OOS 30-1 - Thinking globally, acting locally - what does this mean for today’s ecologists?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011: 1:30 PM
14, Austin Convention Center
Ana Elisa Pérez-Quintero, Grupos Ambientales Interdisciplinarios Aliados,GAIA, University of Puerto Rico - Río Piedras and SEEDS, San Juan, PR and Leanne M. Jablonski, University of Dayton Hanley Sustainability Institute, Marianist Environmental Education Center, Dayton, OH

Environmental Justice (EJ) initiatives tend to be localized, because they center on specific places and their particular community and socio-economics. Increasingly, local EJ efforts are joining with broader initiatives as there are commonalities in the approaches of EJ-affected communities. There is greater effectiveness through a broader learning network that provides a role for ecologists in furthering ecological understanding of local issues and their connections to global issues. Overall global impact could be furthered by supportive partnerships between research ecologists and practitioners that help diversify both fields and approaches and increase their effectiveness.    

 We analyzed the diversity of networks that focus on EJ issues in North, Central and South America over time just before and since the US 1994 EJ order, to assess changes in the the ecological and demographic attributes including personnel diversity, organizational mission, the scope of issues addressed and overall impact.  We also examined how community organizing, policy and participation was furthered.  Finally, we examined use of the environmental justice term and EJ-like concepts in the discourse of organizations outside of the USA.  Our goal was to understand the networks and their functioning and what best practices could be shared to achieve greater biocultural diversity and a healthier planet.


There are over 200 regional, national and international EJ-organizations in the Americas. We categorized organizations by: 1) area covered and whether they focused on eco-regions or ecosystem type (e.g. watersheds, mangrove), 2) governmental jurisdictions (e.g. state and federal EPA) or 3) a specific system (agro-ecosystem, urban region), or 4) by issue and cultural group focus (e.g. Latino, climate.); and found greatest prevalence in the fourth category. The majority of organizations are grassroots-led with limited paid staff and fewer organizations are driven by public policy.   Organizations are increasingly diverse in age and ethnicity with more youth and women in leadership.  Outside the USA, community issues and justice are the terms commonly used for EJ issues.  Occupied by the immensity of local challenges, US EJ movements have rarely connected with global movements. One exception is international religious organizations who increasingly engage the justice dimensions of environmental concerns.  A broadened approach is critical for recognizing groups and movements that are parallel to US EJ, and ecologists’ expertise could help local groups learn about connections to global issues. Advancing global justice and ultimately earth stewardship requires incorporating bio-cultural perspectives that enrich how we do ecology with social organizing to protect ecosystems.

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