Catalyzing personal empowerment, societal transformation, and environmental sustainability
"The major problems in the world are the result of the difference between how nature works and the way people think."
Mission & Vision
Environmental Justice Through Relocalization
I see environmental justice as being the marriage of social justice and ecology. When we take the perspective of systems of relationships (ecology) and apply them to our social and economic realms we see that environmental justice falls within the broader framework of sustainability, and the steps we must start taking to create a sustainable future. This is because for a community to be considered sustainable, it needs to balance the needs of the environment, society, and the economy, in this order of importance.
Today's dominate Western culture operates within a dominator paradigm. This paradigm is structured on force based ranking hierarchies that work through fear and force or the threat of force. It ranks humans over nature, men over women, and whites over any other color. The dominator paradigm ignores and devalues nature, seeing it as "other," and this mindset of other is applied to other cultures and races. The dominator paradigm values the destructive and exploitive concepts of conquest, control, and competition, over the life giving and supportive concepts of compassion, creation, and cooperation.
In this country, and all others controlled by an Industrial Growth Economy, a never mentioned side to environmental racism is environmental classism, which is the main reason the middle class don't get too concerned with what's really going on. The middle class in the industrialized, developed world are constantly fed the myth that things are not only ok, but getting better. FOX News doesn't broadcast the reports pointing out that both the middle class and its buying power are shrinking. The chemical companies are allowed to continue, and not held responsible, for their unregulated genetic experiment on the human race as they continue to develop more ways to increase profits while our bodies, our food, and our world becomes more toxic.
Since Industrial Growth Societies practice mammonism (the deification of greed), the pursuit of increased monetary wealth is assigned a value higher than life itself. We've come to believe in a technological cure for every ill, and technological fulfillment for every want. If the products of the chemical industry (euphemistically called "compounds" instead of toxins) are creating health problems, then the products of the pharmaceutical industry will restore balance, which increases the wealth and power of both industries, thereby "proving" this is the proper path to follow in order to satisfy the American myth of manifest destiny and more abundance for all.
But the truth is carefully hidden, and when it rears its ugly head, the propaganda machine of our elite masters shifts into high gear. We're told that if we do anything to impede economic growth, we won't be able to realize the American Dream. But it's called a dream for a reason... you have to be asleep to believe it. It's like the real price of gasoline. If you include oil industry tax breaks, oil supply protection costs, oil industry subsidies, and health care costs of auto exhaust-related respiratory illnesses, the true price of gas is around $9 per gallon. But, you won't see this fact on FAUX News either.
The impact of environmental hazards is disproportionately inflicted on the poor and communities of color, but the path to fixing it is the realization that we all live downstream. As Martin Luther King, Jr. was fond of pointing out, what affects one affects all; this is the interconnected nature of reality. This is perhaps the main reason the work we do at Attraction Retreat is designed to help people do more than just intellectually understand the truth of this statement, but to emotionally and spiritually bond to its truth as well.
In this country it's not much of a stretch to say the poor and the marginalized are everyone who isn't in the top 5% of the wealth and power hierarchy. While toxic chemical exposure affects those in poorer neighborhoods and regions of the world to the greatest degree, in a global growth economy funded by central banks, managed by multinational corporations, and enforced by the shock and awe capabilities of the military-industrial complex, the concept and continuation of life itself is the major victim.
The total environment must be respected and treated equally. Natural resources must be allocated to all living things, and not hoarded by any one sector. We must ask ourselves if humans have an ethical responsibility to "care" for the earth? Or is it simply in our best interests? Either way, justice and equity, in an interdependent and interconnected world, requires that the whole web of life be cared for.
Environmental justice has strong historical ties to political and economic systems that marginalize and exploit people of color and the poor. People engaged in public health acknowledge that the determinants of human health consist of more than diet and exercise, and are powerfully influenced by water and air quality (nature) and by asbestos and diesel fumes (the built environment), but they also acknowledge the powerful influences of poverty, social isolation, pyramids of status, poor education, stressful jobs, depression, and the sense that one's life is out of control.
Discrimination of all kinds -- but mostly racism and classism -- empowers the dominant culture of corporations and government regulatory agencies to dump, both literally and figuratively, on the less powerful. The poor and communities of color are exposed to much higher levels of industrial pollution, hazardous waste, and toxic landfills. It's four times as dangerous to be poor and twenty times as dangerous to live in a community of color.
NIMBYism can help specific areas in the short term, but industry releases hundreds of millions of pounds of chemical waste directly into the environment on a yearly basis. This means that no matter how equitably we distribute our pollution, vast numbers of children are going to suffer from cancer, birth-defects, low birth-weight, developmental disabilities, immune disorders and a variety of other harms. A movement for environmental justice is going to have limited impact if the end result is to have everyone equally poisoned, regardless of race, color, or class.
I think one thing we need to be careful of is that the environmental justice movement doesn't propagate and help maintain environmental injustice by unwittingly reinforcing the concept of other; that environmental problems are happening to someone else instead of to us all. It is important to put out the fires that are occurring, but we must catch and disable the arsonist.
Addressing environmental justice is similar in many ways to the problems the progressive movement and those who are alarmed over the destructive growth that is occurring in their neighborhoods and communities face. We end up arguing over tactics or focusing on hot-spot developments, and miss the systemic nature of the problem. We don't take the time to first create a broadly agreed upon framework that has a common goal such as sustainability and the relocalization process that can attain it. If we did this, each of our efforts would support one another, and we would discover that we would attain the same strength from diversity that a healthy ecosystem has.
We must begin addressing the root causes instead of putting all of our efforts into applying band-aids to specific symptoms. This entails developing a more holistic strategy for achieving social and environmental justice; one that involves moving from locally reactive actions to more regionally proactive approaches. Developing a systemic approach within a framework of sustainability and applying it to community planning and economic development is the goal of relocalization. This systemic approach is one we can all participate in, as well as having an effective role in the creation of a just, equitable, and sustainable future.
If you would like to schedule an introductory consultation session or arrange a presentation or workshop for your group, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or give Dave or Allison, co-founders of Attraction Retreat, a call at (360) 756-7998.
"You didn't come into this world. You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean. You are not a stranger here."