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Community Reads: 2020-21 | Environmental Justice

A guide to the Community Reads program at UWB/CC Campus Library

Environmental Justice | 2020-21

Canvas course content has been unpublished and is no longer accessible in that format, except in the Canvas Commons (login required for faculty in order to import to other courses). Don't stop reading this! Most of our Spring 2021 content can be found on this webpage and also the Spring 2021 Food Justice webpage.Check out our Food Justice Panel Event recording (May 2021). Explore previous quarter's content by navigating to the drop down menu at the left hand side of this webpage.

Join our community conversation this academic year as we focus on the issue of Environmental Justice. Each quarter will focus on a different aspect of our broader theme, but will strive to keep environmental racism at the forefront of our discussions. Virtual programming will be provided throughout the year, with asynchronous discussions for the community to engage in conversation and expression.

As our climate crisis draws nearer to a tipping point, meeting insufficient government response, and environmental racism continues to put communities of color most at risk of illness and home destruction, it is time for our community to talk frankly about the problems facing us and look for solutions. We hope to open conversations about the many facets of this urgent issue, touching on environmental destruction and contextualizing it in the communities - particularly Black and Indigenous communities - who suffer most from it. We would like to build on our previous year's themes of activism and systemic change as a way of opening solution-driven community conversations.

Key Terms Defined


Environmental justice is the fair and equitable involvement of - and outcomes for - all people in environmental policies, practices, attitudes, and actions. Due in large part to the environmental movement being historically white-led, there have been unequal benefits of environmental protection with most benefits felt by white communities. This has led to a present-day landscape of environmental injustice where communities of color, indigenous communities, and low-income communities bear the most burden of pollution and environmental degradation.    -View the Washington Environmental Council's full definition

Environmental racism "refers to any environmental policy, practice, or directive that differently affects or disadvantages (whether intended or unintended) individuals, groups, or communities based on race or color."  -View the Washington Environmental Council's full definition

Additional Relevant Vocabulary - explore more terminology for this year's focus in this living document.

Read, Watch, & Listen

Our structure this year will be a trio model we call "Read, Watch, and Listen." Each quarter we will offer short focused "texts" in three modalities: a text to read (ie. short story, article), then two complementary resources that you can watch (ie. video) and listen to (ie. podcast, radio broadcast). Additionally, we will reflect together on pieces of art as environmental activism.

Spring Quarter 2021: FOOD JUSTICE

Read | "Black Gold" by Leah Penniman, essay, from the book, All We Can Save edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson

Optional Related Material - SP '21

Watch | "Black Gold" by Naima Penniman, video spoken word  
Listen | "Soil: The Dirty Climate Solution" from "How to Save a Planet" podcast


Read | "He Are The People" by Elif Shafak, short story (NetID login required)
Watch | "The Environmental Refugee Holding Centre" by Sabrina Mahfouz, video poetry      
Listen | "Climate Refugees" from "What Makes Us Human," podcast

Fall Quarter 2020: CLIMATE JUSTICE

Read | "Drones Above the Coral Sand," by Claire G. Coleman, short story
Watch | "Rise: From One Island to Another" from Mainspring Media, video poetry      
Listen | "The Inseparable Link Between Climate Change and Racial Justice" from NPR, interview with Ayana Elizabeth Johnson

View (Act) | "Inheritance," Mexico, Jason deCaires Taylor, underwater sculpture 

Related Works

To provide other frameworks with which to examine our selected trio of "texts" each quarter, we have compiled a working resource list of related works of art, literature, and scholarship. Some of these resources may be highlighted throughout the year, but all are worth reading, watching, or engaging with. Please feel free to contact us if you have suggestions for works you would like us to add to the list.     

Image:  "Inheritance," Mexico, Jason deCaires Taylor

Community Reads Team Contacts: 2020-21

Contact members of the team via email with questions, comments, or concerns:

UWB/CC Campus Library Community Reads logo

How to Join the Conversation


  • If your student group or organization would like to develop discussion questions or lead a conversation
  • If your student group or organization would like to co-host an event with us, please contact us.
  • If your course focuses around similar themes - ask your faculty member if they would consider creating an assignment or offering extra credit for event attendance.


  • Offer extra credit for attendance, but don't make it mandatory, particularly without preparing students in advance to engage with the themes in a group setting
  • Provide advance notice of the title and topic of the selections
  • Provide a link to the quarterly tabs on this guide so that students can take advantage of resources like excerpts, videos, podcasts, and links to a variety of access options for the topic itself
  • Contact us if you have other ideas for activities or collaborations!

Everyone (UWB/CC Students, Faculty, Staff)

  • Attend one of our virtual events - we will offer 1 to 2 events each quarter where we will discuss and/or offer activities to examine questions.
  • Suggest quarterly related readings/materials and community events.
  • Suggest future Community Reads selections.
  • If you've attended a Community Reads event - suggest our next event to a friend (or bring a friend with you online).

Contact us with your own ideas!

Statement of Positionality

“Positionality” refers to how one’s worldview and lived experience shape their understanding of and interaction with a topic. Our values, identities, experiences, biases and previous knowledge influence how we interact with topics, texts, and even teachers, classmates, and colleagues.

The Community Reads (CR) Team wants to acknowledge that in discussing Environmental Justice and its related systemic injustices, we are discussing matters that disproportionately target poor people and people of color – groups that have a long and documented history of having their values and experiences discounted and invalidated, including at educational institutions like colleges, universities, and libraries. We seek to intentionally make space for such voices.

The CR Team’s goal, both in-person and online, is to provide space for discussion and understanding of the ideas coming from a wide variety of viewpoints and experiences across our campus. We attempt not to over-represent ourselves or our own specific positionalities. We intentionally take steps to make this happen each quarter. We also strongly encourage you to keep in mind the positionality of yourself and others when considering, agreeing or disagreeing with another participant’s comments.

If you have questions or suggestions related to our Community Agreements, dialogue expectations, or statement of positionality please contact any member of our Community Reads Team.

Our Goals

Our goals for the Community Reads program are to:

  • Build community through a common intellectual experience.
  • Promote engagement with thoughtful, noteworthy works of literature or scholarship related to issues of equity and social justice across the UWB/CC campus and community.
  • Offer instructors an opportunity to invigorate curriculum with vital issues and community conversation.