Photo credit: Hopkins Bloomberg Public Health

During this Lent 2021 the Ecological Sustainability Committee is offering nightly reflections on environmental justice and environmental racism/casteism – a deep wound in the Body of Christ. The stories come to us from some of our Sisters who, along with the people among whom they minister, experience and see the effects of environmental injustice. We will read stories of their efforts to bring about a different world, one of integral ecology, as Pope Francis urges in Laudato Si’ – stories of community organizing, mobilizing the people and elevating voices.

Environmental justice embraces the principle that all people and communities have a right to equal protection and equal enforcement of environmental laws and regulations. May these stories and reflections for Lent deepen our understanding of this issue and may we find ways to bring about environmental justice in whatever ways we can – such as through prayer, educating ourselves and advocacy. 

We invite you to begin our Lent together by prayerfully reflecting on the words of Hop Hopkins, the Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Sierra Club, who as an African American has experienced first-hand the effects of environmental injustice. In the August 2020 Sierra Club newsletter he gives a moving reflection on environmental racism/justice. 

“An idea—a long-overdue realization—is growing in the environmental movement. It goes something like this: “We’ll never stop climate change without ending white supremacy.

Here’s why: You can’t have climate change without sacrifice zones, and you can’t have sacrifice zones without disposable people, and you can’t have disposable people without racism. 

We’re in this global environmental mess because we have declared parts of our planet to be disposable. The watersheds where we frack the earth to extract gas are considered disposable. The neighborhoods near where I live in Los Angeles, surrounded by urban oilfields, are considered disposable. The very atmosphere is considered disposable. When we pollute the hell out of a place, that’s a way of saying that the place—and the people and all the other life that calls that place home—are of no value. 

All I know is that if climate change and environmental injustice are the result of a society that values some lives and not others, then none of us are safe from pollution until all of us are safe from pollution. As long as we keep letting the polluters sacrifice Black and brown communities, we can’t protect our shared global climate.”