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Democracy Means a Healthy and Safe Environment for All: Jovita Lee on PYP 430

“If living were a thing that money could buy,
You know the rich would live, and the poor would die.” – All My Trials, Joan Baez

Today's guest, Jovita Lee, is co-founder and vice president of Democracy Green, a North Carolina-based non-profit dedicated to environmental justice.

The environmental movement has a long and shameful history of privileging certain parts of the environment over others. Specifically, it's focused on preserving spaces enjoyed by the rich, and where the rich live.

The result is a nation in which environmental racism condemns poor people and people of color – regardless of income and economic status – to lives cut short by chronic conditions caused and worsened by pollutants and climate instability.

How many factory farms are located near middle- and upper-class communities?

How many toxic chemical plants and waste disposal facilities are sited near upscale suburbs?

We are shocked when we see police officers killing Black people by depriving them of air. We should be equally outraged at the fact that most poor communities of color have life expectancies 10-15 years shorter than the American average, largely caused by the toxins in their air, water, and soil. That their cancer rates are 50% higher than average.

In our conversation, we talked about the intersection of environment, democracy, and ethical consumerism. That is, if you don't want a disgusting, polluting, pig-processing plant in your neighborhood, maybe you should reconsider your consumption of pork, ham, and bacon.

We spoke of the racist effects of climate change, as people of color are globally most likely to be harmed and dispossessed by rising seas and stronger storms.

We talked about the war on Black bodies that has never ended; the forms of slavery that persist to this day; and the remarkably courageous and energetic work being done by activists and volunteers to bring about true democracy and justice.

Enjoy, add your voice to the conversation via the comment box below, and please share – that's how we spread our message and spread our roots.

Links

Democracy Green

Black Pensacola neighborhood, unfortified against storms, took massive hit from Hurricane Sally – Washington Post, September 17, 2020

The EPA's Environmental Justice Timeline

Natural Resources Defense Council's History of Environmental Justice

350.org: The Environmental Justice Movement is Rooted in Black History

The Atlantic: Environmentalism Was Once a Social-Justice Movement, by Jedediah Britton-Purdy

Environmental Justice Explainer Videos

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Music

The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.

It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.

You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website, WillRidenour.com.

Gratitudes

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