Connecting Environmental Justice and Environmental Literacy to Education


On April 21, 2020, the California Subject Matter Project (CSMP) held a virtual environmental justice charrette. The charrette brought together CSMP leaders, environmental justice organizers and scholars, and student leaders with the goals of exploring the following questions:

  • What is environmental justice?
  • What does teaching for environmental justice look like in practice? How does it compare and contrast to what we teach in specific disciplines?
  • How might we best integrate environmental justice into the work we are already doing in professional learning and in classroom instructional programs?

The charrette follows earlier work done by the California Environmental Literacy Initiative (CAELI), which includes representatives from three of the CSMPs, at a meeting held in May 2019 focused on environmental justice. Originally scheduled for October 2019, the charrette was delayed because of wildfires and then pushed online in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. These two seemingly disconnected issues can actually be connected to and through the central issue of environmental justice. Many marginalized communities experiencing environmental injustices are also those most vulnerable to the disparate impacts of wildfires and disease as a result of the interlocking relationships and inequities produced by race, class, the environment, and public health. As such, the issue of environmental justice is more relevant than ever.

About the Author

Deedee Chao is a master’s student in community development at UC Davis, with a background in environmental justice and environmental analysis, interested in figuring out how to pursue sustainable development via community-based urban planning practices. Her research involves using a historical-materialist lens to examine how socialist states carry out socially and environmentally sustainable urban planning practices in accordance with their state ideologies, with a particular focus on Xiong’an New Area in the People’s Republic of China.



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