Mainstream environmentalism has reserved the term “environmentalist” for a narrow group of actors, neglecting the broad scope of issues that affect our environment and possible solutions.
This narrow vision of environmentalism presents immigrants, working class, and communities of color as uninterested or impeding a clean environment. But scholars and activists show that these communities face greater threats from environmental problems such as air pollution, water contamination, and industrial hazards. They are also vulnerable to environmental solutions such as conservation practices that segregate poor communities, recycling centers that pollute ethnic minority neighborhoods, and population control policies that target immigrant women’s reproduction.
Broadening our vision of environmentalism deepens our understanding of the environment and the diversity of people who protect it. Environmentalists like Parent Pioneers—comprising immigrant mothers and grandmothers—seek equity in their neighborhood through everyday practices of care.
Our Point of View
Students and faculty in the Asian American Studies Department at UC Santa Barbara and Chicana/o Studies at CSU Northridge are proud to bring together the interconnected histories of environmental justice across immigrant communities. Partnerships with organizations like Parent Pioneers remind us of the power of community-based research and activism, and our intertwined fates. What has been most rewarding is learning and teaching about the historical legacy of environmental justice that shapes access to affordable housing, immigrant rights, gender rights, and labor and educational equity.
—California State University, Northridge and University of California, Santa Barbara
Padres Pioneros/Parent Pioneers is a local grassroots organization established 25 years ago composed of immigrant Latina mothers and grandmothers addressing education and environmental justice in low-income communities. Their mission is to work with schools to develop families’ capacity to support their children’s academic success and to increase their environmental awareness about how to care for and love Mother Earth.
—Padres Pioneros/Parent Pioneers