SPH Convenes Fifth Environmental Justice Symposium Focused on Legal and Policy Tools
The University of Maryland School of Public Health hosted its fifth Symposium on Environmental Justice and Health Disparities on May 11, bringing together policy makers, legal advocates, community organizers and researchers from more than 10 states to promote environmental health, elevate community voices and enact change.
The day-long event, organized by Associate Professor Sacoby Wilson, included more than two dozen sessions on topics including the Green New Deal and its potential to promote climate justice and equity, Trump administration rollbacks of environmental regulations, victories and lessons learned from struggles against power plants and CAFOs and the role of citizen science in advancing movements to stop industrial hazards and pollution.
Other sessions delved into how to utilize tools such as the National Environmental Policy Act and Community Benefits Agreements, as well as filing administrative complaints under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, to protect communities of color from polluting industries.
Community activists discussed past negative experiences working with “helicopter” researchers, and participants focused on best practices for making community-university-legal partnerships work to support social and environmental justice.
The event ended with a keynote by Mustafa Ali, Vice President for Environmental Justice, Climate and Community Revitalization for the National Wildlife Federation. Ali, who acknowledged his many mentors in the room, emphasized that even in the context of a discouraging political climate that communities have and need to claim their power to promote justice.