MISSION: Southwest Research and Information Center is a multi-cultural organization working to promote the health of people and communities, protect natural resources, ensure citizen participation, and secure environmental and social justice now and for future generations
In 1991, the first National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit convened in Washington D.C. to formulate a platform to build a national and international movement to fight the destruction of Mother Earth. History tells us that communities of color bear a disproportionate burden of environmental contamination problems in the United States. Consensus was established at Summit I, that no one segment of society should become the nation's dumping grounds. It was from the consensual agreements at Summit I, that the environmental justice movement platform was built. The examples of disproportionate environmental contamination issues introduced key buzzwords like "environmental justice" and "environmental racism" into the legal, political, economic and social institutions in the United States.
The second National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit was again held in Washington D.C. on October 23-27, 2002. Summit II was organized to review the accomplishments of the movement from the previous 11 years of work. Organizational networks that had been established at the first summit and new participants to the movement came together in a unified effort to continue planning a national strategy and policy to empower, educate, organize and inform impacted populations and communities.
The agenda addressed a wide range of environmental issues such as mining, oil development, timber resources, global warming, alternative forms of energy development, air pollution, water contamination and safe drinking water, industrial toxins, municipal landfills, incinerators, and hazardous waste treatment, disposal and storage facilities. With this vast array of issues being addressed in workshops, panels, working groups and plenary sessions the unique perspectives of networking, organizing, and educating exemplifies a movement that has unified our struggle on a global international level.
Participation in the international governmental arena was shared by those participants who recently advocated for the inclusion of environmental justice and environmental racism paradigms in the declarations and programs of action at the World Conference Against Racism in 2001 and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002. The history participation and progress of these global initiatives has shown how far we have come since the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.
As with any national movement there are going to be obstacles that we have to over come. Prioritization of issues became a topic of debate among participants along with how to best utilize funding sources and grant monies. How can bureaucratic agencies of the federal government, academic institutions and grass roots activists work together to address our ultimate goals and objectives in the EJ movement. The positive outcomes of the stimulated debate is that we have witnessed the quest for environmental justice has taken root in every region of the country.
At Summit II we realized that there are grassroots groups that are still organizing and empowering themselves to unify with networks that will advocate in their best interest. It is with this spirit that we must continue the struggle at a time in history when we need it the most. As I marched among 100,000 people in protest of the war in Iraq during this same weekend I realized with great pride that grassroots environmental activism is alive and well!
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"The term "equity" was a government creation pushed onto the EJ movement by the Environmental Protection Agency. SWOP doesn't want "equal opportunity pollution." We want to reshape the whole table. We want a fundamental reordering of our priorities and commitments, and that starts with corporate and government accountability to the community. We want justice."
--ColorLines, Vol. 3, No. 2
Southwest Organizing Project "Organizing in the 21st Century"