Women. Power. Peace.

Reflection from the Environmental Justice Community Forum June 2, 2014

EnviroForum Take Away Image

By Kira Spanks
Georgia WAND Intern

On June 7th, communities gathered together at Georgia State's Petit Science Center to discuss the importance of environmental justice.  GeorgiaWAND was one of the organizers, along with ECOActionAtlanta, Georgia State University Department of Public Health, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency.  Together, along with the communities in and around metro Atlanta, we met, networked and learned together the importance of environmental justice, and how every resident can get involved, make their voices heard, and create a community of change.  The first step to eradicating environmental injustice is to network with similar minded individuals to come together and make a change that not only resonates in Atlanta, but hopefully throughout the southeast and the rest of the country.  A single voice can be easily ignored, but together we are a force to be reckoned with, because working together, sharing our strengths, and working through experience, we cannot be ignored.

The point of the summit was to network, hear community voices and connect in the most basic level with individuals, organizations and agencies that support our cause as we build toward creating an official environmental justice policy in the City of Atlanta.  We build relationships to leverage partnerships, organize for environmental justice and to inform, educate and empower communities. By sowing the seeds to create the capacity to address environmental justice concerns we increase awareness of the need for an environmental justice policy in Atlanta and to create solutions for moving forward together.

We had the opportunity to hear from a lot of local groups including Green Law, a firm that is focused on environmental law and justice;  and the Emory HERCULES project, led my Melanie Pearson.  Her presentation focused on how the environment around us can influence each of us in the most biological of ways.  We also heard from Fulton County Environmental Planner, Monica Robinson, who provided insight to what the City of Atlanta is working towards regarding justice and infrastructure rehabilitation.  The presentations were far more extensive, and there were many other speakers, including during a working lunch with the Environmental Protection Agency's Director of Environmental Justice, Matthew Tejada, who discussed working with the Honorable Harold Mitchell on the ReGenesis program.  Attendants had the opportunity to share their specific needs from their communities, and personalize how significantly important their surrounding areas were to both their development and the development of their family, friends and neighbors.

After the presentations we broke into three groups: land, air and water.  Each group discussed the current issues related to that topic and we formulated solutions to the concerns.  As a group, we also worked together to discuss how best to communicate with others in the group and promised to meet again and continue working on the problems specific to that area.  After we had our small groups, all three groups gathered together in the auditorium and we shared all of our solutions for metro Atlanta and beyond.

One underlying priority for the groups is organizing together for the historic EPA Clean Power Plan Hearing to take place in Atlanta July 29. The plan aims to reduce carbon emissions to help combat climate change and improve public health. Unfortunately, it also subsidizes the use of nuclear power, which is a huge environmental justice concern. Together, we're organizing to stand up for a carbon-free and nuclear-free future.

Together, we can do anything; together we want to spread the word of environmental justice across the United States and hold the government to proposing a true plan for clean and green energy.  Together, we are an unstoppable force.

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Georgia Women's Action for New Directions

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