Environmental Justice

Black and Indigenous people, people of color, minorities, and poor communities are disproportionately impacted by the relentless challenges related to systemic racism, the COVID-19 pandemic, pollution burdens and climate change. Join the Penn State community this year as we talk and learn together about the barriers to, and solutions for ensuring Environmental Justice (EJ) for all. For our full year-long series of initiatives and events, as well as more resources about environmental justice, click the “Visit the Environmental Justice website” button.

As the culmination of this year’s focus on EJ, we are honored to co-sponsor this year’s Colloquium on the Environment speaker, Dr. Robert Bullard, considered the father of the environmental justice movement. Dr. Bullard will be delivering a public talk open to all on “The Quest for Environmental and Climate Justice in the U.S.” on Thursday, April 1, at 7 p.m. (EDT). All are welcome; pre-registration is required. To join this keynote event, click the “Register for Dr. Bullard keynote” button.

Screenshot of Environmental Justice Website
Visit Environmental justice website
Register for Dr. Bullard keynote

Environmental Justice in PA Mapping Project

“We believe all people should be protected from environmental hazards and have equal access to a healthy environment…”
Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution reads that “The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.” As environmental justice interns at Penn State’s Sustainability Institute, we believe all people should be protected from environmental hazards and have equal access to a healthy environment. Along with our adviser, Dr. Peter Buck, we are doing our part to work for their rights.

Environmental Justice Map of Pennsylvania
We have initiated a project that will display how the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is upholding the above promise in its Constitution. Using mapping software, United State Census Data, and other tools, we are creating an Environmental Justice Map of Pennsylvania. It will be an accessible and informational tool that highlights environmental injustices across the state. From lead exposure to proximity to toxic waste, from rural to urban areas, this map will identify the environmental hazards across the state and their cumulative health impacts on different populations. Supplementary to the map, we will provide a report on its implications for public policy as well as guidance for educators.

Partnerships are key…
To achieve our goals, we are taking the steps to make it excellent. To date, we have read groundbreaking research on environmental justice by Dr. Robert Bullard, this year’s Colloquium on the Environment speaker (postponed because of COVID-19). We have consulted and are coordinating with experts at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Environmental Protection Agency, researchers at Penn State and other universities, as well as other state agencies. As we develop this tool, others in Pennsylvania are initiating a stakeholder engagement process to learn more about community needs. Through our coordinated activities, we want to ensure that all people are recognized, represented, and involved in decision-making to maintain a healthy environment for all the people.

The Environmental Justice Project Team

Nyla Holland, Penn State student

I am a senior from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania majoring in Political Science and African American Studies with a minor in Education Policy Studies. On campus, I am involved with Black Caucus, NAACP, Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Student Committee. Along with Nebraska, I am an environmental justice intern at the Sustainability Institute at Penn State. We are working to inform our communities about environmental justice and include the most marginalized in our conversations and research.

Nebraska Hernandez, Penn State student

I am a current junior majoring in Geography with a minor in Spanish. I am from Johnstown, Pennsylvania. I became interested in environmental justice after seeing the disastrous response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. I believe that all people have the right to a safe, healthy environment, and I am determined to accomplish this with my research.

Dr. Peter Buck, advisor

Peter Buck manages academic programming for Penn State’s Sustainability Institute. He connects and catalyzes faculty, staff, students, and the public to imaginatively integrate sustainability into academics, outreach, operations, and research.