Environmental justice books

(This is a slightly modified version of something that I posted in the book recommendations discussion of the Environmental Book Club on Goodreads. It’s not a comprehensive list and I haven’t read most of them, so I can only judge them based on their reviews.)

It’s important to read about environmental justice and other related topics because environmentalism should be intersectional. We need to be aware of how and why some communities are more likely to be affected by pollution and climate change, we need to understand how people are further marginalized when we assume that they “choose” to live in a high risk, and we need ensure that they’re welcome in natural spaces and the environmental movement.

Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson (@ayanaeliza on Instagram and Twitter) wrote an article about how racism derails efforts to save the planet. In it, she notes that black (57%) and Latinx (70%) people are more concerned about climate change that white (49%) people. So, we (white folk) all need to do a better job of listening to them and giving them space in discussions about environmentalism.

I’d like to acknowledge that many of these are not written by BIPOC authors and that we should strive to read own voices accounts, where possible. Also, these books are all American or Canadian because I haven’t yet had a chance to look for books from other places. While many of them discuss global issues, it’s important to read books from other countries (especially countries that have been colonized or that are marginalized due to poverty, war, etc.). I have more books in my bookshelves and I’ll continue to add more as I find them (you can see my shelves in my profile).

Books about the BIPOC experience in nature:

The Colors of Nature: Culture, Identity, and the Natural World by Alison Hawthorne Deming and Lauret Savoy (editors) – Explores the history, displacement, return, and relationship to place of POC (People of Colour) through 17 essays. BIPOC editor (Savoy)

Trace: Memory, History, Race and the American Land by Lauret Savoy – The author looks at how history and the idea of “race” have affected her and the land through personal anecdotes and historical research. Note: This is the first book/item being read as part of the #alliesinthelandscape reading group (on Twitter), which was created by @jessicajlee (Twitter) to combat anti-Black racism in nature and the outdoors. BIPOC author

Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors by Carolyn Finney – In this book, the author argues that the legacies of slavery, Jim Crow, and racial violence have shaped cultural understandings of the great outdoors and determined who should and can have access to natural spaces. BIPOC author

Books about or relating to environmental racism:

There’s Something in the Water: Environmental Racism in Indigenous & Black Communities – by Ingrid R.G. Waldron – This looks at the legacy of environmental racism and its health impacts in Indigenous and Black communities in Canada. This is now a documentary on NetFlix. BIPOC author Canadian

As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock by Dina Gilio-Whitaker – A history of Indigenous resistance to government and corporate incursions on their lands and offers new approaches to environmental justice activism and policy. BIPOC author

If You Poison Us: Uranium and Native Americans: Uranium and Native Americans by Peter H. Eichstaedt – This is about the health, environmental and spiritual impact of uranium mining on the Navajo Reservation.

Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility by Dorceta Taylor – This examines the connections among residential segregation, zoning, and exposure to environmental hazards. BIPOC author

The Rise of the American Conservation Movement: Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection by Dorceta Taylor – This book shows how race, class, and gender influenced every aspect of the conservation movement. BIPOC author

Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the National Parks by Mark David Spence – This looks at how the establishment of America’s most cherished parks involved the displacement of Native communities. BIPOC author

Books that are relevant, but may not be specifically about eco-justice or environmental racism:

The Rights of Nature: A Legal Revolution That Could Save the World by David R. Boyd – This is about environmental rights in general, but there’s a lot of discussion about Indigenous groups fighting to save their lands and sacred places. Canadian

Finding Our Niche: Toward a Restorative Human Ecology by Philip A Loring – A look at mistakes we’ve made, how to reconcile our settler-colonial histories and how to move towards a more sustainable and just future.

Noxious New York: The Racial Politics of Urban Health and Environmental Justice by Julie Sze – An analysis of the culture, politics, and history of environmental justice activism in New York City. BIPOC author

Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore by Elizabeth Rush – A look at some of the places in the US where rising sea levels are having the most dramatic effects. Includes some discussion about marginalized communities and racism.

On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal by Naomi Klein – A collection of essays talking about how a bold new green deal could lead to a just and thriving society. There essays are about a diverse range of topics, including the rise of white supremacy.

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