Climate Justice is Racial Justice: A Reading List

The EHN team is here to listen and (un)learn. We understand that racism and environmental injustice are two symptoms of white supremacist and colonial structures, and resist isolating environmental from social justice. We need to center the voices and experiences of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, and be explicit about how any environmental action is inextricable from social justice.

The list below includes some of the readings we’ve found helpful from Black scholars and activists who identify as women, trans and/or non binary people, and hope you do too. 

These readings show the inherent importance of addressing racial and economic inequalities. Some offer a starting point to gain a deeper understanding of race, racism, and racial justice, while others help reshape our understanding of nature, environmental challenges, and the climate crisis. 

*We regularly add new readings to this list (last update: February 28, 2022).

OluTimehin Adegbeye on how racism has little to do with feelings or color, but everything to do with  power, profit, and freedom – “What Racism Really Is (Hint: It’s Not Your Attitude Or Belief),” The Correspondent (June 24, 2020).

Paula Akpan on how schools do not teach about Black people’s contributions to British history – “Black British history: A study in erasure,” Al Jazeera (October 18, 2018).

Dr. Daina Ramey Berry and Dr. Kali Nicole Gross on centering Black women’s voices in U.S. history – A Black Women’s History of the United States (New York, NY: Penguin Random House, 2020).

Dr. Keisha N. Blain on Black Lives Matter and the global fight against racism – “Civil Rights International: The Fight Against Racism Has Always Been Global,” Foreign Affairs (September/October 2020).

—— on the long history of Black women’s activism and organizing in the U.S. – “The Pioneering Black Women Who Paved the Way for This Moment,” The Atlantic (June 9, 2020).

Dr. Edna Bonhomme‘s personal account on the global fight against racism – “George Floyd, a Survivor’s Guilt and a Global Black Lives Matter,” Al Jazeera (June 21, 2020).

Talia Buford on the lack of progress and programs to ensure environmental justice protections in the U.S. – “Has the Moment for Environmental Justice Been Lost?” ProPublica (July 24, 2017).

Nylah Burton on how racial and climate justice are inseparable – “Why Climate Change is a Race Issue—Here’s Why,” Vogue (June 21, 2020).

—— on making the connection between racism, inequality and the environment – “If We Don’t Solve Racial Injustice, We’ll Never Solve The Climate Crisis,” Huff Post (June 19, 2020).

—— on the climate crisis being linked to the oppression of Black and Indigenous peoples, and other people of color – “People of Color Experience Climate Grief More Deeply Than White People,” Vice (May 14, 2020).

Rachel Elizabeth Cargle on showing up to serve and protect Black lives – “Why You Need to Stop Saying ‘All Lives Matter,’” Harper’s Bazaar (April 16, 2020).

Charlene A. Carruthers on making the movement for Black liberation more radical, more queer, and more feminist – Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2019).

Catherine Coleman Flowers on the lack of proper waste sanitation in rural U.S. as an issue of racial and environmental justice – Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret (New York, NY: The New Press, 2020).

Dr. Brittney Cooper on the intersection of race and gender – “Why Are Black Women and Girls Still an Afterthought in Our Outrage Over Police Violence?” Time Magazine (June 4, 2020).

Patrice Cullors and Nyeusi Nguvu on racism being endemic to global inequality – “From Africa to the Us to Haiti, Climate Change is a Race Issue,” The Guardian (September 14, 2017).

Deeohn Farris on environmental justice being the multicultural dimension of environmentalism – “Environmental Justice: Moving Equity From Margins to Mainstream,” Nonprofit Quaterly (August 15, 2019).

Dr. Crystal M. Fleming on how race is represented in U.S. culture and life, and the need to challenge white supremacyu and intersectional oppression – How to Be Less Stupid About Race: On Racism, White Supremacy, and the Racial Divide (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2019).

Dr. Tiffany N. Florvil on anti-racist activism in Europe throughout the twentieth century – “Anti-Racism Protests and Black Lives in Europe,” HistorianSpeaks (June 28, 2020).

Dr. Sheila R. Foster on how the unequal distribution of polluting facilities and other environmental hazard exposure can be addressed through civil rights and environmental law – “Vulnerability, Equality and Environmental Justice: The Potential and Limits of Law,” in The Routledge Handbook of Environmental Justice, ed. Ryan Holifield, Jayajit Chakraborty, and Gordon Walker (New York, NY: Routledge, 2017), 136-148.

—— on the historical and contemporary causes for environmental racism (with Luke W. Cole) – From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of the Environmental Justice Movement (New York, NY: NYU Press, 2000).

Dr. Chelsea Mikael Frazier on the lack of representation within ecocriticism – “Black Feminist Ecological Thought: A Manifesto,” Atmos (October 1, 2020).

Wanjiku Gatheru on why the environmental movement needs to do more to include Black knowledge – “It’s Time for Environmental Studies to Own Up to Erasing Black People,” Vice (June 11, 2020).

Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman on centering and celebrating Black expertise across economics, education, health, climate, and technology – “It’s Time for Black Experts to Be Heard,” The Nation (February 7, 2022).

Paris Giles on how people of color and low-income communities will be the first to experience the effects of climate change – “A Look at Climate Change and Why Black People Will Be Among Those Hardest Hit,” BLAC (May 19, 2019).

Dianne D. Glave on the history and connection Black people have to nature and the Earth – Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage (Chicago, IL: Chicago Review Press, 2010).

Ashley Gripper on Black farming being a tool of resistance – “We Don’t Farm Because It’s Trendy; We Farm as Resistance, for Healing and Sovereignty,” Environmental Health News (May 27, 2020).

Rhiana Gunn-Wright on how addressing climate change is a big enough idea to revive the economy – “Think This Pandemic Is Bad? We Have Another Crisis Coming,” The New York Times (April 15, 2020).

Endia Hayes on land and dirt as archive for the histories of Afro-Texan women – “Dirty Knowings: What Afro-Texan Women Tell Us About Archiving,” Environmental History Now (February 12, 2021).

Mary Annaïse Heglar on the intersection of race, justice, and climate change – “We Don’t Have To Halt Climate Action To Fight Racism,” HuffPost (June 12, 2020).

—— on how climate action needs not to be seperated from climate justice – “Climate Denial by Any Other Name,” Drilled News (February 25, 2020).

—— on the need to address racism as a root case for climate breakdown – “Climate Change Isn’t Racist — People Are,” Medium (August 13, 2019).

Dr. Elizabeth Hinton on why organizing and activism are essential – “George Floyd’s Death Is a Failure of Generations of Leadership,” The New York Times (June 2, 2020).

—— on the history and modern-day issues in regard to the intertwined relationship between crime and poverty – From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016).

Afua Hirsch on the need to dismantle systems of oppression in Britain, too – “The Racism That Killed George Floyd Was Built in Britain,” The Guardian (June 3, 2020).

Dr. Sylvia Hood Washington on how generations of Chicago’s poor, working class and ethnic minority residents have suffered disproportionately from the harmful effects of pollution – Packing Them In: An Archaeology of Environmental Racism in Chicago, 1865-1954 (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2004).

Dr. Kellie Carter Jackson on the historical roots of riots in the U.S. – “The Double Standard of the American Riot,” The Atlantic (June 1, 2020).

Dr. Jenn M. Jackson on the role of women in white supremacy – “Women Have Always Been a Part of White Supremacy,” Teen Vogue (May 28, 2020).

Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson on the role of feminism in addressing the climate emergency (with Katharine K. Wilkinson) – “Why We Need More Women Leading The Fight For The Planet,” Elle Magazine (September 22, 2020).

—— on including more expansive understandings of justice in environmental work – “We Can’t Solve the Climate Crisis Unless Black Lives Matter,” Time Magazine (July 9, 2020).

—— on why and how racial inequality and climate crisis are inextricably linked – “I’m a Black Climate Expert. Racism Derails Our Efforts to Save the Planet,” The Washington Post’s Made by History (June 3, 2020).

Dr. Martha S. Jones on the pursuit of political power of Black women Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2020).

Alexandra Wanjiku Kelbert on how issues of climate change and race have been portrayed as separate – “Climate Change is a Racist Crisis: That’s Why Black Lives Matter Closed an Airport,” The Guardian (September 6, 2016).

Jazmin Kopotsha on systemic racism in the United Kingdom – “Yes, The UK Does Have A Race Problem. And It’s Just As Troubling As America’s,” Grazia (June 3, 2020).

Dr. Treva Lindsey on police and state violence against Black women, girls, trans and/or non binary people – “The Lack of Mobilzed Outrage for Police Killing Black Women is An Injurious Erasure,” Bustle (June 3, 2020).

Dr. Atyia Martin on the significance of framing and the role of agency when talking about racism – “Confronting Racism is Not About Saving People of Color or Bashing White People,” LinkedIn (January 25, 2020).

—— on the importance of critical thinking and humility in approaching systemic issues such as racism and climate change, and finding our individual roles in perpetuating those systems – “Racism and Climate Change Are About You,” TEDxDirigo (November 2017).

Dr. Katherine McKittrick on the politics of place that Black subjects, communities, and philosophers inhabit (with Clyde Woods, eds.) – Black Geographies and the Politics of Place (Toronto: Between the Lines Press, 2007).

Heather McTeer Toney on the importace of including Black voices as part of national conversations about policy solutions to climate change – “Black Women Are Leaders In The Climate Movement,” New York Times (July 25, 2019).

Dr. Tiya Miles on the long tradition of African-American environmentalism – “Black Bodies, Green Spaces,” The New York Times (June 15, 2019).

Dr. Koritha Mitchell on political advances for marginalised communities resulting in often-violent backlashes – “Recent Political Successes Have Made LGBT+ People Targets for Attack,” Openly (June 4, 2020).

Vanessa Nakate on how global discussions around climate change consistently frame the environmental crisis as a problem for future generations – A Bigger Picture (London: One Boat, 2021).

Saeda Nourhussen on racism not being an opinion or something to debate (in Dutch) – “Over racism debateer je niet, je bestrijdt het” [You don’t debate racism, you fight it], OneWorld (July 11, 2020).

Melz Owusu on systemic violence against Black trans people – “Black Trans People Are Disrespected in Life and Barely Recognized in Death — Our Lives Matter Too,” The Independent (June 3, 2020).

Dr. Imani Perry on the long history of black planting and tending alongside racialized atrocity and grief – “A Little Patch of Something,” The Paris Review (June 3, 2020).

Dr. Keisha-Khan Y. Perry on how black women’s views on development have radicalized local communities to demand justice and social change in Salvador – Black Women Against the Land Grab: The Fight for Racial Justice in Brazil (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2013).

Alexis Plair on why racial justice advocates need to get more activated around climate, too – “Call to Racial Justice Advocates — We MUST Center Climate Justice,” Medium (October 12, 2020).

Dr. Danielle M. Purifoy on how development, infrastructure, and environmental harm are intimately linked through legal and political contestation, and resource redistribution (with Louise Seamster) – “What is Environmental Racism for? Place-based Harm and Relational Development,” Environmental Sociology 1 (2020): 1-12.

—— on the “black map” of American life – “The South is Everywhere,” Scalawag (March 18, 2019).

Andrea J. Ritchie on profiling, policing, and criminalization of women and girls in marginalized communities – Invisible No More: Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2017).

Jessica S. Samuel on how disasters exacerbate social inequalities – “Human Fragility: The Condition We Fight To Escape,” Environmental History Now (April 16, 2020).

Dany Sigwalt on reinventing power structures to push for climate action – “Climate Activists: Here’s Why Your Work Depends on Ending Police Violence,” Medium (June 2, 2020).

Dr. Dorceta E. Taylor on the systemic problems that expose poor communities to environmental hazards – Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility (New York, NY: New York University Press, 2014).

Dr. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor on state power reinforcing and perpetuating racism and violence against Black people – “Of Course There Are Protests. The State Is Failing Black People,” The New York Times (May 29, 2020).

Dr. Cheryl Teelucksingh on perceptions that the Black Lives Matter movement has given insufficient attention to environmental concerns – “Dismantling White Privilege: The Black Lives Matter Movement and Environmental Justice in Canada,” Kalfou: A Journal of Comparative and Relational Ethnic Studies 5, no. 2 (2018).

Abigail Abhaer Adekunbi Thomas on the usefulness of incorporating restorative justice practices into the environmental framework – “Intersectional Environmentalism Must Shape Climate Action, in The Black Agenda: Bold Solutions for a Broken System, ed. Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman (New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 2022)

Adelle Thomas and Rueanna Haynes on how long-standing racist policies and practices have led to increased vulnerability of Black people to climate change impacts – “Black Lives Matter: The Link Between Climate Change and Racial Justice,” Climate Analytics (June 22, 2020).

Leah Thomas in conversation with Rachel Cargle about the climate movement, optimism, and Black futurism – “Rachel Cargle and Leah Thomas Talk Black Climate Optimism,” Atmos (May 27, 2021).

—— on how multiple forms of oppression and inequity interact to shape social and environmental injustices – “‘I Can’t Breathe’ And The Inextricable Link Between Climate And Racial Justice,” Elle Magazine (September 3, 2020).

—— on how the Black Lives Matter movement and environmentalism are linked – “Why Every Environmentalist Should Be Anti-Racist,” Vogue (June 8, 2020).

Tamara Toles O’Laughlin on the climate movement not adequately or consistently standing in solidarity with Black-led efforts against systemic causes of harm – “If You Care About the Planet, You Must Dismantle White Supremacy,” Grist (June 15, 2020).

Dr. Ingrid Waldron on the legacy of environmental racism and its health impacts in Canada – There’s Something in the Water: Environmental Racism in Indigenous and Black Communities (Black Point, NS: Fernwood Publishing, 2018).

Harriet A. Washington on how toxic living conditions excerbate patterns of inequality – “How Environmental Racism is Fuelling the Coronavirus Pandemic,” Nature (May 19, 2020).

—— on how exposures to environmental toxics poison communities of color in the U.S. – A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind (New York, NY: Little, Brown Spark, 2019).

Teona Williams on the intersection of police brutality and urban renewal – “For ‘Peace, Quiet, and Respect’: Race, Policing, and Land Grabbing on Chicago’s South Side,” Antipode (December 5, 2020).

Raquel Willis on the resources designated for organizers and activists to alleviate anti-trans violence – “It’s Time to Invest in Black Trans Power,” Vogue (June 30, 2020).

Dr. Deva Woodly on the politics and promise of the Movement for Black Lives – “An American Reckoning,” Public Seminar (June 4, 2020).

*Cover Image Credit: We Got You Girl by Alexandra Bowman.