February Focus: Environmental Justice

👉Find the list of resources here!👈

Each month in 2024, we shine a spotlight on some of the intersectional issues facing our one shared ocean and climate, provide tools and resources to learn more, as well as share ways take action for our blue planet. 

Environmental justice sits at the intersection of environmental protection of lands, waters, climate and our shared ocean, social and economic equity, and human rights. It’s a concept that defies a singular definition. Its meaning resonates uniquely between individuals and communities, extending far beyond the limitations of a single interpretation.  

Since every aspect of environmental justice is multifaceted, it’s essential to preface that we cannot cover every environmental justice consideration within the confines of this blog. Instead, we encourage you to continue to expand and deepen your understanding by exploring the resources linked here. Also, commit to doing more in your own life, in your school or work place, no matter your background and where you live, to help create a more just, equitable, and sustainable society and a healthy blue planet that everyone needs to survive and thrive. 

The concept of environmental justice can encompass who has access to a healthy environment and natural spaces like the coast and ocean, who has a say in environmental policy that affects both human and ecological health, and who is most harmed by the consequences of inaction in safeguarding and revitalizing our shared lands, waters, and ocean environment.  

Additionally, our world’s shared ocean, which covers 71% of our blue planet’s surface (including coastal areas and the High Seas, or areas beyond national jurisdiction), doesn’t belong to a single entity—it belongs to everyone, whether we live in a coastal city or far inland! This reality presents both an obligation and an incredible opportunity for us to make a difference and influence the course of action; And youth worldwide can help lead these efforts, now and in the future! 

A fundamental aspect in pursuing environmental justice is redefining who can be an environmental advocate. Advocates work to raise awareness, influence public opinion, and bring about positive change; Anyone can be an advocate. Despite this, the loudest and most prominent voices in the land and ocean conservation policy spaces have historically been, and still largely are, lacking in diversity. Many groups have been excluded from conservation spaces due to systemic injustices, financial and logistical barriers, and a lack of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. These groups include coastal communities, women, LGBTQ+, BIPOC, immigrant communities, and youth.   

Omitting members of these communities, whether inadvertently or intentionally, from the decision-making process can lead to inequitable outcomes and ineffective solutions for many. When members of these communities are not included in conversations pertaining to their own needs, their lived experiences, unique perspectives on the issues, and knowledge of local ecosystems are overlooked. All too often, this results in policies that fail to address their specific concerns.  

The exclusion of these communities and groups has shaped policy and strategy that, at best, excludes and, at worst, actively harms. By embracing the intersectionality of social and environmental issues, ocean and land conservation and policy spaces can unlock immense potential for actionable cross-cultural and intergenerational knowledge exchange. This can drive genuine, meaningful change by inspiring the development of new and innovative approaches to conservation management, education, and outreach campaigns. 

To create long-lasting, sustainable coalitions for ocean and climate action, it is crucial to recognize that anyone, regardless of age and background, has the ability to become a powerful advocate for our blue planet, and should be granted opportunities to do so. This will require organizations and government actors to commit to dismantling cultural, logistical, and financial barriers that prevent access to our coasts, waterways, ocean, and other natural spaces. Furthermore, we must recognize the profound interconnectedness of life on Earth by fostering interconnected perspectives. Acknowledging that ocean justice is climate justice is a critical step in synthesizing our perspectives to achieve a sustainable and equitable future for our planet and all its inhabitants. 

We believe that involving young people from a diverse array of backgrounds is imperative to achieve environmental justice goals. To integrate young voices in the shaping of solutions, we must recognize that the consequences of our actions today will significantly impact future generations. Climate change and ocean degradation are inherently intergenerational issues that require youth to be included in the decision-making process. Young people have been indispensable agents of change in their communities for generations. Through proactive and targeted efforts to involve and inspire young minds, we can cultivate a generation of environmental champions who address ocean and climate action, together. The collective power of youth can, and will, catalyze significant transformations within their communities, countries, and beyond. 

Throughout history, young people have been passionate advocates, invested in driving change. Young people have been at the frontlines of some of the most boundary-pushing and status quo-changing movements of the last 50+ years. Especially now, as communities worldwide have begun to experience the impacts of climate degradation first-hand, young people are at the forefront of demanding transformative change.  

Harnessing the power of young minds in pursuing ocean and climate justice is not only a strategic approach but a moral imperative. Young people are critical agents of change; Their capacity to inspire, innovate, and mobilize positions them as catalysts for tremendous change. 

To help advance environmental justice action, it is essential to highlight recent strides and successes, and spotlight some key resources. Link here for some we wanted to share, and please let us know if you know of additional resources, inspiration, and ways to take action that we can include in future updates. Thank you!