This year’s National Environmental Justice Conference (NEJC) theme, “New Opportunities and Trends in Environmental Justice in 2022 and Beyond,” built upon past annual conferences and recognized a rapidly changing and diversifying landscape.
Since 2007, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has been a sponsor of NEJC, the nation’s largest annual environmental justice (EJ) conference. The conference took place March 9-11, 2022 in Washington, D.C., and was also offered virtually.
The conference featured thought-provoking panels and workshops, and numerous opportunities to hear from young people, activists, and others from all across the United States who are engaged and committed to the principles of EJ.
Presentations were provided by individuals with unique backgrounds and different experiences. The presentations focused on the concept that conference attendees believe EJ cannot exist without an informed citizenry; that all Americans are entitled to live in a healthy environment; and that empowerment is the key to advancing any worthy cause that could improve the quality of life for everyone, especially those in underserved and underrepresented communities.
“This conference has done much over the past 15 years to highlight the issue of EJ, but we have more to do in our efforts to prepare our youth and future EJ leaders to take the mantle in developing capacity-building techniques, education, training, outreach, research, policies, collaborations, and projects and activities for today and in the future,” EJ Program Manager Melinda Downing said. “Attendees left the conference with a renewed commitment to continued cooperation, forging partnerships, and taking advantage of all appropriate opportunities to build and sustain viable safe and healthy communities.”
Highlights of the program included a video address by U.S. House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.); a live address by Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm; a video presentation by Deputy Secretary of Energy David Turk; and in-person keynote remarks by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Assistant Secretary Mike Martinez.
The conference was dedicated to the memory of Dr. David E. Rivers, founder of the National Conference on Health Disparities and an integral planner, participant, and supporter of NEJC. Dr. Rivers was a professor in Academic Affairs and founding director of the Public Information and Community Outreach Initiative at the Medical University of South Carolina Libraries in Charleston.
The first day of the conference was dedicated to youth during the Youth/Emerging Leaders Summit. Example presentations during the second and third days included:
- Virtual Environmental Justice Academy. Undergraduate students interning with the Mentors for Environmental Scholars (MES) Program. Their internship focused on creating virtual environmental justice trainings to be delivered to middle and high school students. The results of this 20-week academic year internship formed the Pre-Collee University’s Virtual Environmental Justice Academy.VI
- Educate, Motivate, Innovate (EMI) and College/Underserved Community Partnership Program (CUPP) Collaboration: CUPP has completed more than 100 projects throughout the United States, obtaining several dedicated college, university, and nonprofit partners.
- Redlining and Environmental Justice: Identifying the Roots of Child Health Vulnerabilities to Climate Change.
- Tech for Environmental Justice: BEEnevolent Hive and Mobile Application. The plight of the honeybees and technological solutions for the insects.
- Kentucky State University Assisting in Development of Educational Materials for Lead Testing in Drinking Water in Schools and Childcare Facilities for Low-Income Communities in Kentucky.
The event’s workshops included:
- EJ and the National Environmental Act (NEPA): Considering Cumulative Effects and EJ in the NEPA
- What’s in My Neighborhood? How Communities Can Use the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory Toxics Tracker to Identify Industrial Sources of Toxic Chemical Releases and Other Waste Management Activities
- Federal Title VI and Environmental Justice
- Pragmatic Approaches: Reaching Students in Areas with Limited Broadband to Access College Education
NEJC will reconvene in 2023 and more information can be found at https://thenejc.org.