New Colors Of Green BY STEPHEN CASTOR Robert Bullard, editor, Confronting Environmental Racism: Voices from the Grassroots (South End Press, 1993). "The movement for environmental justice is so important," Dr. Robert Bullard told me, "because it's not only the fastest growing segment of environmentalism, but it converges the movements for social and environmental justice and peace in one multicultural, multiracial, and multi- regional trend." The new book he has edited, Confronting Environmental Racism, is a major contribution to understanding why. Bullard is a political as well as movement "insider" who served in the Clinton transition team and in helping organize a presidential summit on environmental racism this fall. Bullard's previous book, Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class and Environmental Quality, described the conditions that spawned environmental justice activism. It documented the criticism of environmental racism first popularized by Rev. Benjamin Chavis (now Executive Director of the NAACP) and Charles Lee's 1987 report, "Toxic Wastes and Race in the U.S." The efforts of Chavis, Lee, and others bore fruit in the 1991 People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit. Bullard's new book is one of numerous follow-up projects from that gathering. Subtitled Voices from the Grassroots, Bullard's book hands activists and researchers a microphone to explain their issues and organizing strategies. The author told me the contributors' views of the movement are not in lockstep, and he selected his collaborators to reflect the diversity of viewpoints. The vast majority of collaborators are people of color, including Bullard, Chavis and Lee. About half are women, which is significant because the overwhelming membership -- but not leadership -- of grassroots environmental groups are women. They're the ones who feel the effects on their families the most and are the most connected within their neighborhoods. One of the women writers, Cynthia Hamilton, provided the most ideological chapter. She laid the ultimate blame for ecological injustice on our "industrial" society, and suggested the solution lies in totally transcending the "modern Western worldview" and capitalism for new lifestyles and a different standard of living. In the final analysis, she wrote, the environmental justice movement is about democracy. Its goal is to "democratize environmental decision-making and empower disenfranchised people to speak out and act for themselves," wrote Bullard. He told me that the environmental justice movement is the only environmental movement that deliberately addresses racism, sexism, and classism. LEFT COMES LATE The left sees environmental justice issues as our own issues and these communities as the people we want to organize. But we need to bear in mind that environmental justice builds on top of all the organizing done in poor, working class, and people of color communities. This movement, therefore, must also be seen as a more developed stage of the racial justice movement. Leading activists in grassroots environmental groups are no more likely to be political ingenues than Rev. Chavis is. They are and have been part of the left for a long time, but much of the left is only coming late to recognize that -- just as the mainstream environmental movement came late in 1990 when Chavis and Lee's coalition and the Southwest Network for Economic and Environmental Justice (SNEEJ) wrote scathing letters to the "Group of 10." (See "Environmental Inequities" in CrossRoads first issue, June 1990.) Now the Group of 10 national environmental establishment routinely spouts about environmental racism and touts their own organizations' environmental justice projects as if they'd thought of them in the first place. At the same time, SNEEJ sent a letter to white-led groups who had better relationships with people of color-led efforts than the established organizations. That letter was to get the white-led allies to take people of color more seriously on their own terms on environmental questions instead of patronizing them. Bullard points out the positive responses from Greenpeace and others. On the other hand, one national toxics group had to be forced by its few active people of color to set aside a budget specifically addressed to organizing projects, training, etc. on environmental racism. Many independent and left, predominantly white groups have rallied to join and support environmental justice organizations since they discovered them. My own experience in a multiracial environmental justice group profiled in Bullard's book is that use of already existing community mechanisms -- working through churches, community centers, door-to-door canvassing, and word of mouth -- worked well for these groups. Organizing tactics such as a lot of literature (particularly where a lot of affected people didn't read English), marches, demonstrations, pickets, etc. brought in mainly the white left. There appear to be limitations to the movement against environmental racism. Its tone is largely populist, and its demands are often limited and very local -- Not In My Back Yard. When a victory is won by siting a hazardous waste dump in someone else's back yard, here or abroad, what happens? The danger of cooptation by focusing on immediate, local demands is a complex and troubling question. Bullard told me that, even though immediate goals of some of the groups were achievable, the movement was really to overturn oppression. He felt that activists for environmental justice aim to dismantle the educational system that compartmentalizes environment from transportation, housing, energy, and health care. According to Bullard, this movement is ultimately not cooptable because, after every victory or loss on a toxic incinerator, the group proceeds to make demands about lead in housing, inadequate medical attention for the most polluted communities, and on and on to broader problems. Enthusiastic, Bullard has a vision of a holistic movement spurred by the vital concerns of environmental justice. Stephen Castor is a contributing editor of CrossRoads. Earth Diverse! BY CARL ANDERSON Robert Gottlieb, Forcing the Spring: The Transformation of the American Environmental Movement, (Island Press, 1993). Directly challenging the premise that the environmental movement is the strict province of conservationists and the traditional environmental organizations, Robert Gottlieb's Forcing the Spring is both a detailed history of environmentalism in the U.S. and a much-needed progressive analysis of the groups and individuals who have made up the environmental movement. Gottlieb challenges the very definition of environmentalism. Not only does he include the impacts of our society on nature -- our forests, oceans and wildlife -- but also the impacts on people -- our homes, jobs and communities. As a result, Gottlieb's history includes not only conservationists like John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club, but also public and occupational health and labor pioneers such as Mary McDowell, Florence Kelley and Alice Hamilton. Working out of Hull House and the Northwest Settlement house in turn-of-the-century Chicago's working class neighborhoods, this remarkable group of women took on issues of tenement conditions, garbage and sewers. Hamilton, regarded as one of the founders of public health in the U.S., took on issues of occupational hazards, including phosphorus, lead and carbon monoxide poisoning. The history of industrial pollution and its effects on workers is carefully documented in Gottlieb's book, with particular attention to the disproportionate impact on people of color, what has become to be known as "environmental racism." Gottlieb shows that people of color are affected as workers because they have traditionally been relegated to the most difficult and hazardous jobs. Three striking examples are used to document this. At Gauley Bridge, West Virginia, hundreds of workers died painfully from silicosis contracted while working for a subsidiary of Union Carbide, the company that later brought us the Bhophal, India chemical plant disaster. The Gauley Bridge incident took place in the middle of the great Depression, when Union Carbide recruited migrant African American workers from the deep South to work in the tunnel amidst high levels of silica dust. The resulting deaths, largely ignored by the mainstream press, were documented by the left journal New Masses in articles by Phillipa Allen entitled "Two Thousand Dying on a Job." The workers or their families received small settlements, based on race, averaging less than $400 per worker. FIGHTING PESTICIDES The efforts of the United Farm Workers to confront the issue of pesticides in the fields is far better known. It also resulted in one of the few alliances between the people of color and the traditional environmental movement. The Environmental Defense Fund joined the UFW and the California Rural Legal Assistance organization to force the EPA to ban DDT, a pesticide that was devastating wildlife as well as the health of farmworkers. Although their pesticide campaign of 1970 was partially successful, the UFW has had difficulty in recent years gaining public recognition of the hazards of farmworker exposure to pesticides. When Uranium mining on Native American land began in the 1950s, neither the Atomic Energy Commission or corporate giants in the nuclear industry as Kerr-McGee (infamous for the Karen Silkwood case) warned Native Americans recruited to work in the mines of the potential dangers of working with radioactive materials. Again this had tragic consequences, as miners developed lung cancer and other industrial diseases. A few weeks after the accident at Three Mile Island, a spill of radioactive tailings into the Rio Puerco in northern New Mexico received scant attention from either the media or mainstream environmental groups. The issue of contamination of Native American land, given emphasis and attention in Gottleib's book, remains a peripheral concern for most of the environmental movement. Gottlieb also provides an in-depth history of traditional environmental organizations as well as more militant, alternative groups such as Earth First! and Greenpeace. He points out the role played by corporations and foundations in funding and shaping environmental policy. In an ironic footnote, the Ford Foundation, which played the major role in forming the Natural Resources Defense Council, also funds Island Press, publishers of Forcing the Spring. Gottlieb, a lecturer in the Urban Planning Program at UCLA, writes in an academic style that at times comes across as dry and repetitive. In particular, the chapters on traditional environmental organizations move slowly, which is unfortunate since there is a great deal of substantive information that will be of interest to all environmental activists. The chapters on occupational health, race, gender and class are obviously of more interest to Gottlieb and it shows through in writing that is more vibrant and alive. Forcing the Spring is exhaustively researched, presenting an excellent analysis of the environmental movement and providing activists with an indispensable tool to connect movements for social justice with movements for environmental sanity. Gottlieb writes with a well-thought- out clarity that more than makes up for any shortcomings in style. Gottleib's conclusion is an articulate outline of the direction he would like the environmental movement to take. He urges environmentalists to change into a movement that "leads toward an environmentalism that is democratic and inclusive, an environmentalism of equity and social justice...an environmentalism of transformation." Island Press is a non-profit publishing house dealing with environmental issues. For a catalog of current titles, write Island Press, Box 7, Covelo, CA 95428. Carl Anderson is an Oakland, California activist who writes on environmental issues for News for a People's World.