There is no one universal definition of environmental justice, but the following well-accepted description draws from the 17 Principles of Environmental Justice
“Environmental Justice … refers to those cultural norms and values, rules, regulations, behaviors, policies, and decisions [that] support sustainable communities where people can interact with confidence that the environment is safe, nurturing, and productive. Environmental justice is served when people can realize their highest potential … where both cultural and biological diversity are respected and highly revered and where distributive justice prevails.” – Dr. Bunyan Bryant
With the full investment of our Board of Directors, the National Wildlife Federation is operationalizing principles of equity and environmental justice within our organization and across our conservation and education programs. Our environmental justice efforts are spearheaded by Mustafa Santiago Ali, the Federation’s Vice President for Environmental Justice, Climate, and Community Revitalization. Ali leads our efforts to ensure our work pursues intersectional solutions that maximize opportunities to revitalize frontline communities, reduce pollution, bolster resilience through natural defenses, improve public health, restore natural resources and wildlife populations, and create well-paying jobs.
The Federation’s environmental justice program builds upon over a decade of urban initiatives, relationship building, and community engagement under the leadership of Simone Lightfoot, Associate Vice President of Environmental Justice and Climate Justice. Our work is rooted in race and social justice by design. It is underpinned by a philosophy of listening before talking, giving before asking, sharing resources, and building community and campus capacity to engage and take action. Our work takes place in specific locations where the Federation has existing on-the-ground relationships including, but not limited to: Chicago, IL; Detroit, MI; Flint, MI; New Orleans, LA; Birmingham, AL; Jackson, MS, and Jackson State University, Tougaloo College, Clark Atlanta University, Grambling State University, and Southern University.
Our environmental justice work intentionally prioritizes, amplifies, and includes the policy solutions, views, and voices of Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian and Pacific Islanders, and lower wealth communities that have been impacted the most by discriminatory practices. We invest the time and cultural respect required to build authentic relationships and connect our policy and advocacy efforts to those communities challenged most immediately and seriously by climate change.
Much of this work operates at the intersection of opportunity and crisis. From pipelines and PFAS to wetlands and water, our environmental justice efforts connect with issues like climate-induced flooding and other natural disasters, infrastructure, poverty, food insecurity, and more. This work connects local conservation concerns and stakeholders with resources and organizations to help them thrive.
To learn more about environmental justice at the National Wildlife Federation, please contact Rebeca Villegas at VillegasR@nwf.org.
COVID-19 & Environmental Justice
We address the urgent and pertinent issues impacting frontline communities by centering the voices of those impacted, sharing resources, and co-developing recommendations to inform our policy advocacy efforts.
Creating Safe Spaces
Our work recognizes the inequities people face when interfacing with nature and we take active steps to increase access and safety through targeted policies and program implementation that are informed by impacted communities.
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More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. We're on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 53 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.