Thanks to Jennifer Oladipo
(“Global Warming Is Color-blind,” November/December 2007) for calling attention to the racial gap in
mainstream environmentalism. Troublingly, though,
her claim that we people of
color “like to go backpacking, too” betrays an assumption that
most of us can a=ord hiking gear and
easily access parks and trails.
Mainstream environmentalism rightly
targets corporate waste and middle-class
consumption, but it proposes solutions
that are inappropriate and insensitive to
us. Welfare households headed by immigrant women whose >rst language is not
English are less concerned with energy-e;cient light bulbs than with providing
food and shelter; young black and Latino
men are less concerned with their old gas-guzzling cars than with racial pro>ling.
And long before the hue and cry over
global warming, indigenous peoples were
losing their access to land and water.
In e=ect, “nature” means something
di=erent to people of color. It is not a
middle-class place in which to hike or bike.
It is the landscape on which we are targets
of genocide or from which we are forcibly
removed or into which we settle in refugee
camps. It is not a place where we comfortably eat locally grown fruits and vegetables
but a searing >eld or orchard in which we
pick them for nearly slave wages and
then cannot a=ord to
buy them at our farmers’
market or food co-op. It
is the place in which we
su=er illness and disease because the only
local employer is a nuclear facility.
There is an environmental justice movement that addresses
our needs and concerns—and, by extension, the world’s needs and concerns—but
mainstream environmentalism remains a
white middle-class movement.
Assistant Professor, Department of
Comparative Ethnic Studies
Washington State University
I thoroughly enjoyed Erik Reece’s piece,
“Putting Art to Work” (
November/December 2007). I only hope that others with
T. Allan Comp’s same wisdom can convince residents of many other small Appalachian towns that, with some imagination,
they too can dig themselves out of the dark
trap they >nd themselves in. These towns
have rich histories, and yet so many have
fallen on such hard economic times that
residents can’t envision themselves ever
being part of something productive again.
Comp’s project is an example of hope.
As a native of western Pennsylvania, I
was happy to read about Vintondale’s spirits
being lifted. It is great to know that this kind
of transformation is due in part to the generosity and tenacity of people who care
about our country and our history. That’s
community, respect for place, and patriotism at their >nest. And I’m not surprised to
see art taking on the role of the uni>er!
Charlotte, North Carolina
Matt Jenkins provides an important look
into the intricacies of social change and natural resource management (“Fluid Values,”
November/December 2007). Unfortunately, however, the battle in the Klamath is
often oversimpli>ed as a >sh-versus-farmer
controversy. For the salmon and the
Klamath River tribes dependent on them,
the controversy could be more accurately
described as >sh-versus-power-company.
Removal of dams on the Lower Klamath
River would drastically improve water quality and restore hundreds of miles of historic
spawning grounds. If we as the general
public would fully assume our responsibility for consumption and protection of natural resources, we could turn out the lights,
call Paci>c Power, and request the removal
of their antiquated, >sh-killing dams. The
result would be a win–win situation for
everyone: improved water quality and >sh
runs, restored vitality to the Klamath tribes,
continued water for farmers, and a sense
of pride among those power consumers
willing to care, conserve, and speak out.
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