Friday, December 29, 2006

Environmental Justice Narcissism: A Luxury We Cannot Afford

The environmental justice movement does not have the luxury of indulging in elitism. We have to answer questions the mainstream environmental movement can ignore. Where is the environmental justice movement heading? Will it organize to provide a relevant presence before the U.S. Congress and the Executive Branch? Will it compete in the private sector and encourage entrepreneurship? Will it litigate to protect vulnerable communities of color when needed? Can it renconcile environmental justice with economic justice? Can personal agendas and competition be subjugated for the benefit of the movement?

Traditional environmental organizations have embraced an elitism that keeps minorities out of their ranks. The EJ movement could also be distracted by elistist tendencies and delusions of grandeur. The traditional environmental movement is a $6 billion per year industry and they do not share it with minorities. Mainstream groups can afford their elitism, but the EJ Movement is poor, yet has commissioned itself to protect poor people and the most vulnerable communities. The challenge is great. Maybe the challenge is too great for the people and resources involved. It surely cannot be achieved by looking in the mirror. Although this conference will glance in the rear view mirror, it is also clearly focused on looking and moving forward.

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