A student group calling itself the Environmental Justice for Underrepresented Communities (EJUC) is demanding that the University of California, Davis create an environmental justice major and minor in the name of inclusion.
In an open letter to the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the Environmental Science and Policy Department at the university, the student group says it deems environmental justice inclusion as an “eminent issue” at UC Davis, Campus Reform reports. The letter goes onto say that the “failure to recognize the importance of teaching these issues in higher education is a major factor contributing to the continuation of systematic environmental injustices.”
The open letter stipulates a slew of short- and long-term goals, including but not limited to “the creation of an Environmental Justice Major and Minor provided by the department, the development of a mentorship program for underrepresented and undeserved students in the department” and the “hiring of diverse faculty of color and of other underrepresented groups whose research and professional background takes an intersectional environmental justice based approach to matters of environmental science and policy.”
The letter further charges that the founding of UC-Davis was made possible by the “stealing of indigenous land.” The “colonization of indigenous people’s land is a violent act of environmental injustice,” write the students, who nonetheless choose to attend UC-Davis even though the institution itself is a culprit of environmental injustice.
The student organization surmises “lack of inclusion and intersectionality of curriculum taught in the classroom” as the cause of said environmental injustices. Furthermore, the organization characterizes environmental equity as “poison people equally” and environmental justice as “stop poisoning people, period.”
EJUC declares that minorities and those of lower socioeconomic privilege experience “environmental injustice at disproportionate levels when compared to privileged communities.”
Unsurprisingly, EJUC condemns President Donald Trump’s policies on the environment and maintains that “we are living under an administration whose policies deny not only the significance of environmental science but also an intentional erasure of the experiences of historically marginalized peoples and their communities.”
EJUC considers events such as the Keystone XL pipeline and the water crisis in Flint, Michigan as opportunities to engage in “resistance through the inclusion of this knowledge that is vital to the recognition of marginalized communities experiences and to the comprehensive understanding of environmental science.”
The concern for environmental social justice on campus is also shared by faculty members, including the chair of the UC-Davis Environmental Science and Policy Department, Dr. Marcel Holyoak. Holyoak supports and embraces the idea of environmental justice courses at UC-Davis.
In an email to The Daily Caller, Holyoak stated that they “currently have a meeting of interested faculty and student representatives on 12 June to try to figure out what is possible by way of creating an environmental justice program of study.”
“We do fully intend to work to increase course offerings, the capacity of these courses, and to form a program of some kind. The advocacy of the EJUC students is an outstanding example of grass roots action that can propel change, and both the department and I intend to do what we can to facilitate and create such change,” Holyoak told TheDC in an email.