Environmental justice is the principle that all people and communities – regardless of race, color, national origin, or income – have a right to equal enforcement and equal protection of environmental laws and regulations. The environmental justice movement is a vital part of the struggle to improve and maintain a clean and healthful environment, especially for those who have traditionally lived and worked closest to the sources of pollution. Please see our Environmental Justice snapshot for a detailed discussion of the subject as well as access to helpful resources.
Periodically, Ocean Connect will feature individuals and organizations that are instrumental in the environmental justice movement. It seems only right to begin with Dr. Robert Bullard, the man known as the “Father of Environmental Justice.” Dr. Bullard is the former Dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University and is currently the Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy and Director of the Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice.
Dr. Bullard was one of the first to understand the unequal environmental burdens faced by vulnerable communities, and he has been a leading campaigner against environmental racism. In 1991, Dr. Bullard played a key role in organizing the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, which has been described as one of the most important events in the history of the environmental justice movement. It was this summit that adopted the 17 Principles of Environmental Justice (which you can find listed in an earlier blog post). It is hard to fathom the resistance Dr. Bullard and others must have encountered in the early days of the environmental justice movement. Every entrenched interest – corporate, government, regulatory – was lined up against him. But you don’t become the father of an entire movement unless you have the fortitude and perseverance to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Of course, as Dr. Bullard himself has said on many occasions, there is still much work to be done.
If you want to learn more about Dr. Bullard and his role in the environmental justice movement, all you need to do is a Google search, and tons of information will come up. A great place to start is his personal website, where you will see he has received over 25 awards or honors and has authored 18 books. These books are considered seminal works in the environmental justice field. If the reading list looks a bit overwhelming, we suggest starting with Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class and Environmental Quality, or Unequal Protection: Environmental Justice and Communities of Color, or The Quest for Environmental Justice: Human Rights and the Politics of Pollution.