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

The Environmental Justice Reader: Politics, Poetics, and Pedagogy
Joni Adamson, Mei Mei Evans, and Rachel Stein (Editors)
Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2002
395 pp., $21.95, paper
ISBN 0-8165-2207-3

"If the environmental movement can develop an understanding of and a sympathy with social, economic, and cultural issues, wildness- and community- stand a much better chance. I hope we learn to base our future struggles on this social ecology, where conservation and human equality go hand in hand."

-John Nichols, 2000

While attending a retreat this past summer for environmental and social justice activists, Barbara, from Washington, D.C. pointed out, "the reason why they call it justice is because that's what it is…JUST US." Meaning, the struggle for all communities to have a healthy environment and the fight for protection by working class and people of color for their respected communities, is an upward battle that requires more broad base support.

The Environmental Justice Reader offers possibilities to achieve a broad effort toward justice as it shares testimonials, opens the discussion to expand conventional ideas, and gives specifics of what some individuals are doing in their classrooms. Situated in a University setting, some classrooms are examples of how curricula can reflect contemporary environmental topics to a wide-ranging audience that speaks to transformative possibilities for education about the environment.

The Environmental Justice Reader is a multidisciplinary collection of interviews, case studies, nature writing, essays and teaching strategies that confront mainstream perspectives of environmental and social justice. The book highlights among other issues, environmental "isms" that include race, class, gender, sexuality, family/community relations, cultural representation, and transnational economics. Divided into sections entitled Politics, Poetics, and Pedagogy, The Reader is about teaching and learning environmental issues from various standpoints that broadens understanding of residents in poor and minority communities faced with the politics of pollution.

Readers are introduced to local issues and knowledge when editors Adamson and Stein focus on the experiences, thoughts, and visions of four individuals in a roundtable session. Simon Ortiz, Teresa Leal, Devon Pena, and Terrell Dixon make up a dialogue as part of the Environment and Community Conference held in Reno, Nevada, in February 2000. The panelists describe their own work through their cultural identities and highlight human values and worldviews. For example, poems and essays of Simon Ortiz draw upon his experience with uranium mining and its negative impacts on indigenous communities in the Southwest, more specifically the Pueblo Indian people of New Mexico. Ortiz braids environmental issues into poetry and prose to illustrate city metropolitan demands of surface and groundwater that are radically changing the landscapes and cultures of the desert Southwest, where water is more than a metaphor-it is the lifeblood of community. He points to indigenous leaders who speak on behalf of their communities and whose voices are needed and respected in the movement. Leaders such as Grace Thorpe, Winona LaDuke and Manny Pino, who is from Acoma Pueblo and is a SRIC board member.

I particularly enjoyed the pedagogy section where the editors (Adamson, Evans, and Stein who are contributors and professors) made space for instructors to talk about what strategies are working in their classrooms. One professor confessed that, while not meaning to, he created a top down teaching model and as a result, lost a teachable moment with his class. In this failure however, he readjusts his teaching techniques with a little help from a friend (bell hooks) and now looks at those students and himself with a fresh pair of eyes and a new approach.

Striving to include environmental and social justice in subject matter and method that demonstrates political insight is filled with many challenges. This book reaches out to a wide audience with its examination of nature writing, poetry, novels, and non-fiction books and gives a strong sense of what is needed in social movement for today's environmental problems. The EJ Reader brings environmental issues home and expands on ideas about justice with hope and possibilities for change.

-- Frances Ortega

Order from:
The University of Arizona Press
355 S. Euclid Ave., Suite 103
Tucson, AZ 85719
Fax: 1-520-621-8899

If you are interested in writing reviews, please let us know via e-mail: Info@sric.org, or call us at 505-262-1862. You can also write to us at Voices, c/o SRIC, PO Box 4524, Albuquerque, NM 87106. Thank you.

Community Partners
and Resources

Table of Contents

"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"

Donate Now Through Network for Good

All donations are tax-deductible.
Thank you.

SRIC is part of the Stop Forever WIPP Coalition.
The nuclear waste dump is permitted to operate until 2024, but the federal government want to expand the amount and types of waste allowed with NO end date.
We need your help to protect New Mexico!

Donate through Smith's Rewards Program

Southwest Research and Information Center
105 Stanford SE
PO Box 4524
Albuquerque, NM 87196
fax: 505/262-1864

Shop at
and Support
Southwest Research and
Information Center