by June Blotnick
For someone who has worked on economic, racial, and environmental justice issues for the better part of my 40+ year career, Richard Moore gave me and others at CleanAIRE NC’s recent NC BREATHE Conference a crucial reminder. Speaking with the cadence of a minister to a diverse, intergenerational audience, he emphasized that while environmental and economic justice is the goal, systemic racism is the primary issue.
“All we’ve ever asked for is a little bit of justice, just a little bit of protection, just a little bit of understanding when we look back at the community impacts…and what our people have been faced with for over 500 years.”
You can watch the full recording of Richard Moore’s Keynote Address below.
Richard Moore is a widely respected national environmental justice leader who shared his expertise gleaned from decades of fighting for healthier lives for people of color, low-income communities, indigenous peoples, and other disenfranchised groups.
He is Co-Chair of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council and sits on many other national and local boards. But Richard will tell you he’s a farmer. He is the Co-Founder and Co-Coordinator of the Los Jardines Institute in Albuquerque, a network of 37 farms engaging people in the essential work of farming to produce food for their communities.
But more than food is being grown in those gardens. Part of their mission is holding physical space to build social, economic, political, and spiritual power. While sharing the work of the Institute, Richard emphasized the importance of engaging all generations to build an intergenerational movement.
“Our elders have reminded us continuously that we can’t have these discussions without including our children, without including our youth, without including our adults, and without including our elders.” In other words: it takes all of us.
Richard also stressed the importance of looking at the history of injustice. If we fail to do this, we fail to understand how long these fights have been going on and the intersection of the issues we work on. “We can’t talk about economic justice without discussing environmental justice, or health inequities, or climate change. Don’t silo us out and make us think they’re separate issues.”
In a broader sense, he reminded us that the same corporations that are poisoning his community are poisoning everyone’s. We are all connected. We are all downwinders. And it’s going to take all of us working together to bring about change.
Richard expects to return to North Carolina in September for the 40th anniversary of the Warren County demonstrations protesting the creation of a state landfill for toxic PCBs illegally dumped along North Carolina back roads in the late 1970’s. Those demonstrations launched the modern-day environmental justice movement. I’m looking forward to being inspired by Richard again and hope to visit Albuquerque next year to see one of the many fruits of his labor.
Full recordings of all other sessions and panel discussions from NC BREATHE 2022 are available on the event page.
Learn more about the work of Los Jardines Institute at their website.
Learn more about the Warren County protest movement.