In an effort to increase the conversation around environmental justice, ArchCity Defenders is working with several local organizations to bring a series of conversations, concluding with a virtual summit, to the public.
Madison Orozco, the agency's community collaborations associate, works with partners to advance issues such as housing and environmental justice. She helped spearhead the effort to put on Environmental Racism Series and Summit, which is intended to build on the release last year of the Environmental Racism in St. Louis report.
“That report came out of a lot of community listening, to hear people talk about what was going on and what people are facing,” she said.
“They wrote a report that analyzed all of this, it showed if you look at the maps, the most marginalized areas of the city and often the communities with the most Black and Brown folks were, time and again, were the ones that were most heavily impacted by these environmental issues.”
Orozco said this is an example of environmental racism, that it was intentional these communities would bear the brunt of the effects of pollution and climate change. So the goal of the conversations and summit was to engage with people about what it looks like to solve these issues from their perspective.
The virtual conversations and summit were put on through a collaboration of Action St. Louis, ArchCity Defenders, Dutchtown South, Sierra Club and the interdisciplinary environmental clinic at Washington University School of Law. They brought those conversations to the public through four Wednesday night virtual meetings that began Oct. 21.
Those conversations culminated with a virtual summit on Nov. 14. Presenters summarized the conversations into their vision and reviewed policy recommendations for each of the environmental issues.
“I already knew it, but (this) confirmed how much of an appetite there is for conversations about these things,” Orozco said. “How much of an appetite there is for this work to be done and so this is how we partnered with this clinic this semester. But the organizations and the clinic have a standing partnership. So from semester to semester, we're going to continue to do things.”