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 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: August 4, 2020).

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).

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 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).

Nylah Burton 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).

—— 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).

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).

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).

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. 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).

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).

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).

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).

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

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

Dr. Elizabeth Hinton 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).

—— 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).

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 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, forthcoming).

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).

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

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).

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).

Dr. Danielle M. Purifoy 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).

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

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.