Reflections from the New England Environmental Justice Summit

On June 9th, A carload of GALAvanters set out of Worcester, MA to attend the New England Environmental Justice Summit.   The event was designed to connect community activists and residents, EJ advocates, lawyers, and policymakers from all six New England States who are interested in the environment and public health in low income communities and communities of color.   Participants learned about environmental justice topics in workshops, as well as by networking with others who work on similar issues or share common concerns.  G.A.L.A,’s volunteers Ryan Allmendinger and  Nicole Haeger had a few reflections to share:

Over the course of the New England Environmental Summit, not only did I increase my knowledge of the term “environmental justice”, but was also able to meet many young leaders and founders of new organizations that will likely to play a large role in this new movement. To see so many diverse students rally together and devote their time to a movement that they were truly passionate about inspired me to

do my part in the organizations that are available to me. Going to this summit also opened my eyes to the environmental dangers outside of the rural areas that I’m accustomed to. For example, the danger that asthma poses to low-income families in urban areas due to air pollution from diesel burning cars, power plants, and other sources of fossil fuel fumes. It is so important for people to step back from what they are used to and really expand their views of these environmental issues. This summit is something I would definitely recommend to anyone else who is interested in learning more about environmental justice and the many other branches of this justice such as food and energy justice. In the end, you had to ask yourself, what can I do to prevent environmental inequality?  – Ryan

       I got a lot out of it and it also renewed some hope in me. At Marlboro College, and at home, there are people that are actively trying to better our current environmental situation. I am exposed to these people and their ideas on a fairly regular basis and in some cases, I even have the pleasure of seeing these ideas come to fruition. But what of the other regions outside of the home and school spheres that I’m familiar with? It was refreshing, to say the least, to see so many others from so many different backgrounds coming together under a common cause. I am aware that there are other non-profits out there, like G.A.L.A., and there are other people who are environmentally conscious and activists; until now, however, those ideas had remained abstract concepts. I knew they existed, but I had never interacted with them before. The Environmental Justice Summit helped bring these concepts from the abstract to the concrete, and it brings me great joy to think, and know, that there are many, MANY, others out there who are making honest efforts and making great change in their communities.  – Nicole

G.A.L.A. was pleased to offer this opportunity to connect rural with urban, white with colored, and simply young people who occupy mainstream identities with those who occupy marginalized and silenced identities.  Seeing the same issues from new perspectives can, and was, transformative.  In short, it was a powerful 24hrs, especially for those who were connecting issues of justice and environment for the first time.  We are so grateful for everyone who made to join us for this memorable GALAvant.

NEEJF is a collaboration of Alternatives for Community & Environment (ACE), Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice and Rhode Island Legal Services.  Also, NEEJF is a Bridgeport Environmental Justice Showcase Pilot Project funded by EPA to expand the capacity of environmental justice communities to address multimedia environmental health

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