August 23, 2017

Are social justice issues a concern for environmentalists?

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Henry Curtis in his article about modern slavery in the United States points out that many environmental organizations build silos around their activities. The Sierra Club was formed to protect the Wilderness. The Conservation Council for Hawaii tries to protect Hawaiian ecosystems. The World Wildlife Fund works to protect large vertebrate animals. The Nature Conservancy buys land they think is important to protect but that does little to protect animals that must range over large areas like wolves and grizzly bears. There are good reasons for environmental organizations to compartmentalize. It helps them focus their mission.

I was first introduced to social justice by the National Wildlife Federation. At one of their annual meeting field trips, they took us into a low-income neighborhood where pollutants from a military base were contaminating their water supply.  The problem was discovered when epidemiologist saw a spike in cancer cases in their community. It was a clear example of environmental pollution becoming a social justice issue.

The world is a big and complex place. I consider conflict and climate change to be the two biggest contributors to environmental degradation. We have done a lousy job of dealing with either one.

Locally, I went to a Sierra Club workshop on political action. I am not a Sierra Club member and I am known for wanting to establish a local chapter of the League of Conservation Voters. A Sierra Club member pointed out to me that the Sierra Club puts a great deal of effort into evaluating the voting record of local politicians and asked why I wanted to duplicate that effort with a local LCV chapter.  It was an excellent question and I did a poor job of answering it.

I believe in community-based management. Modern science combined with local knowledge can lead to the best results for the community. Local communities know their politicians best. Nationally, the LCV seeks the advice of their local chapters when making Congressional endorsements. Locally, a state wide coalition of environmentally concerned citizens can have a major impact on local elections. Having a local organization that can discuss local issues, reach a consensus, and educate the public about the pros and cons of those issues can bring focus to local conservation issues.

That is the purpose of this website. So, what do you think about:

  • Building on beach front property
  • Eliminating rats from Lehua Island
  • Using biocontrol to combat invasive strawberry guava
  • Controlling mosquitoes that carry dengue fever and zika virus
  • Repairing leaking fuel tanks at Red Hill
  • Returning water to major streams and particularly to kalo farmers
  • Establishing and enforcing rules for the sustainable management of our reefs and near shore fishery
  • Establishing a local chapter of the LCV

The list goes on so add your own issue and let’s get some action going.


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