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UK Environmental and Sustainability Studies Program Statement of Solidarity with Black Lives Matter

We are deeply saddened and outraged by the senseless and brutal killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, the latest victims in a long history of the violent devaluation and evisceration of Black lives in the United States and globally. We mourn the loss of these and countless other people of color who have been killed by racialized violence in our policing and criminal justice systems. The Environmental and Sustainability Studies Program affirms its solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and joins their voices in demanding justice for Black and Brown people in the United States.

These events, together with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, cast stark new light on the racism and inequality that remain deeply embedded in U.S. society. This systemic injustice and marginalization is as prevalent within the environmental movement as it is in other aspects of life: both historical and present-day social injustices have left people of color much more exposed than others to many types of environmental health hazards. We commit to further the radical transformation that recent events have set off by working to dismantle systems of inequality, injustice, and oppression in the environmental sphere. We believe BIPOC (Black Indigenous and People of Color) voices have been disregarded and silenced for too long. They deserve a seat at society’s table to shape understandings of and agendas for justice, restoration, and reparations for environmental harms. Their voices and cultural values are crucial to saving the planet and creating a more equitable future. We believe in a genuine alliance, one that is neither self-serving nor performative but instead brings about real change. To everyone who has felt ignored in this movement, we say that we see you, we have work to do to educate ourselves, and will join with you to ensure that your voice for a more sustainable and just future is magnified and heard. To this end, we propose the following steps forward:

  • On-campus programming that highlights environmental (in)justice and includes people of color from the community (and makes connections to local media);
  •  Connecting with local environmental groups, such as the Lexington Environmental Youth Outreach (LEYO) Program established by ENS Alumni, who represent people of color to support their efforts and encourage student and faculty involvement;
  • Continue to offer ENS courses, in addition to Race, Food, and Environment (ENS 300) and Gender and Environment (ENS 300), that specifically focus on these important issues related to race and the environment;
  • Seek UK administration to authorize a new faculty hire who specializes in these topics and who will split his/her/their time between ENS and a particular department;
  • Create a mentorship program that connects BIPOC professionals and community members with current students and alumni.