5 Must-Read Books and Articles About Intersectional Environmentalism - Public Goods Blog

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5 Must-Read Books and Articles About Intersectional Environmentalism

The original version of this post was published on Brightly, a new platform that features content, community, and brand recommendations that ignite change via conscious consumerism.

black woman standing in a field of flowers

We cannot imagine a sustainable future without justice. Environmentalism and diversity go hand in hand, yet race and class are often left out of discussions. To create a sustainable future, our conversations must include people of all races, social classes, religions, sexual orientations, etc. These difficult conversations are a necessary step in fighting systemic racism and learning and growing. Below, we’ve highlighted important Black voices in the Intersectional Environmentalism movement – read, listen, and support them in order to advance sustainable living for all.

1. Black Faces, White Spaces by Carolyn Finney

black faces white spaces by carolyn finney


Why are African Americans so underrepresented when it comes to interest in nature, outdoor recreation, and environmentalism?


$27 from UNC Press


The next time you head to another park or National Forest, Carolyn Finney’s words will leave you with reminders that the Great Outdoors in America were not created with everyone in mind – let’s work together to change the equation.

In this thought-provoking book, Carolyn Finney looks beyond the discourse of the environmental justice movement to examine how the natural environment has been understood, commodified, and represented by both white and black Americans.

2. Why Every Environmentalist Should Be Anti-Racist by Leah Thomas

leah thomas sitting in a field




@greengirlleah on Instagram


Leah has been spotlighting issues and voices in the intersectional environmentalism movement for years. She was recently highlighted by brands like Patagonia, Allbirds and more for her important work and we’re thrilled to amplify it on Brightly.

Leah’s opening paragraph summarizes the crucially important question she seeks to answer: “Environmentalists tend to be well-meaning, forward-thinking people who believe in preserving the planet for generations to come. They will buy reusable cups, wear ethically made clothing and advocate for endangered species; however, many are hesitant to do the same for endangered Black lives, and might be unclear on why they should.”

3. Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility by Dorceta Taylor

Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility by Dorceta Taylor


On Resources Radio Podcast


$2 on Amazon


Dorceta Taylor’s interview on the Resources Radio podcast examines the barriers to diversification within environmental groups, including cultural alienation, racism, classism, sexism, and exclusionary hiring and retention practices. Her bestselling book, Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility goes specifically into issues affecting people of color in the United States.

From St. Louis to New Orleans, from Baltimore to Oklahoma City, there are poor and minority neighborhoods so beset by pollution that just living in them can be hazardous to your health. Due to entrenched segregation, zoning ordinances that privilege wealthier communities, or because businesses have found the ‘paths of least resistance,’ there are many hazardous waste and toxic facilities in these communities, leading residents to experience health and wellness problems on top of the race and class discrimination most already experience. Renowned environmental sociologist Dorceta Taylor focuses on the locations of hazardous facilities in low-income and minority communities and shows how they have been dumped on, contaminated and exposed.

4. Black Environmentalists Talk About Climate and Anti-Racism

drawing of people watering and planting a garden


Racism, in short, makes it impossible to live sustainably.


The New York Times


We can’t talk about sustainable living without addressing fair treatment for all. The 3 voices highlighted by the Times have been working for years to surface important issues surrounding the links between racism and environmental inequality, and we encourage you to dig in further and support the organizations they support. Plus, sign up for the Climate Fwd Newsletter!

The New York Times recently talked to leading black climate activists about the connections between racism and climate change. A clear theme emerged from those discussions: Racial and economic inequities need to be tackled as this country seeks to recalibrate its economic and social compass in the weeks and months to come.

5. A Terrible Thing to Waste by Harriet A. Washington

a terrible thing to waste by Harriet A Washington


on NPR’s All Things Considered


$18 at Amazon


If you’re short on time, Harriet’s interview with NPR provides a broad overview of the topics and issues she covers in her book. We recommend listening and then diving into the full context.

From injuries caused by lead poisoning to the devastating effects of atmospheric pollution, infectious disease, and industrial waste, Americans of color are harmed by environmental hazards in staggeringly disproportionate numbers. This systemic onslaught of toxic exposure and institutional negligence causes irreparable physical harm to millions of people across the country – cutting lives tragically short and needlessly burdening our health care system. But these deadly environments create another insidious and often overlooked consequence: robbing communities of color, and America as a whole, of intellectual power.

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