More than 30 years ago, roughly 1,100 people attended the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in Washington, DC to discuss the environmental injustices they were experiencing in their communities. Considered by many as the birth of the environmental justice (EJ) movement, the four-day summit concluded with the adoption of the 17 Principles of Environmental Justice, still relevant today.
In the eighth episode of "Groundtruth," the Environmental Law Institute (ELI)’s Arielle King chats with key organizers and leaders of the historical summit: Vernice Miller-Travis, a longtime EJ advocate and cofounder of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, a northern Manhattan community-based organization, who currently serves as the Executive Vice President of Metropolitan Group; and Charles Lee, organizer of the First Summit who currently serves as the Senior Policy Advisor at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Office of Environmental Justice. The episode honors and celebrates the 30th anniversary of the 17 Principles by taking a look at how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go.
“We need to be fully committed, as committed as we are to the Clean Water Act, and the Clean Air Act, and their enforcement, and the Safe Drinking Water Act, and CERCLA, and RCRA, and all of the other panoply of environmental laws and regulations. As committed as we are to the enforcement of those laws, we have to be equally as committed to Civil Rights law and to anti-discrimination. And I think if we could do that, we would really, really, really make significant progress in the environmental justice arena.”
— Vernice Miller-Travis
“Groundtruth” is a podcast series, produced in partnership with the Environmental Law Institute’s People Places Planet Podcast, that explores EJ trends and developments. Listen to other “Groundtruth” episodes:
- Episode 3: “All of Industry – Corporate Approaches to Advancing Environmental Justice”
- Episode 4: “Operationalizing Environmental Justice”
- Episode 7: "EJ & ESG, Intersected"