Sustainability Office Antiracism & Intersectionality Commitment

Updated February 8, 2021

This is a living document, and we welcome campus and community feedback via this Google Form.

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Intersectional environmentalism advocates for both the protection of people and the planet. It identifies the ways in which injustice is happening to marginalized communities and the destruction of the Earth are connected. It brings injustices perpetrated against the most vulnerable communities, and the earth, to the forefront and does not minimize or silence social inequality. 

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Though the environmental movement is greatly indebted to communities that are both racially and socioeconomically marginalized, members of these communities have been historically left behind in matters of sustainability decision-making. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and low-income communities in the United States and around the world currently suffer first and most acutely from fossil fuel extraction, climate disruption, and environmental hazards, including air, water, and land pollution. 

The Wesleyan Sustainability Office recognizes the deep and intricate link between environmental injustice and racial injustice. Sustainability is, and has historically been, a predominately white field, in which white privilege has shaped this movement. At Wesleyan, we in the Sustainability Office have not been as involved in promoting racial justice as we could and should have been, and we now commit to standing in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and the Black community, as well as with marginalized students of all  races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic statuses, going forward. Sustainability is not possible without justice and equity. 

We set forth the following four commitments to this work and welcome feedback from the Wesleyan community on these action steps:

  • Uplift and prioritize the voices of marginalized people in the sustainability movement through:
    • Supporting all Wesleyan efforts outlined in Wesleyan’s antiracism commitments: here, here, and here, and advocating for a continued strengthening and evolution of these efforts.
    • Developing events and programs that center experiences of marginalized communities in relation to the climate crisis.
    • Including BIPOC, first-generation, and low-income (FGLI) students, artists, and speakers in all programming, and/or acknowledging the role these marginalized groups have played and continue to play in the issue at hand.  
    • Amplifying Wesleyan and non-Wesleyan marginalized perspectives on environmental racism and climate justice through social media and programming.
    • Hosting regular community conversations that incorporate inclusive practices and developing a website feedback form to improve outreach, programming, and intersectionality of Sustainability Office efforts.
    • Working with the Resource Center to amplify the voices of marginalized students, particularly on issues related to environmental justice.
  • Acknowledge, listen to, and collaborate with the BIPOC and FGLI communities, both within Wesleyan and in Middletown through:
    • Updating all training, recruitment, and application materials for the intern and Eco Facilitator hiring processes to include anti-bias and antiracist language.
    • Developing a curriculum to educate Sustainability Office interns on environmental justice and antiracism, including acknowledging and confronting biases and issues of indigenous history, settler colonialism, white supremacy, and income inequality through readings and by inviting partners from underrepresented communities to facilitate conversations on these issues.
    • Increasing collaborations and discussions between Wesleyan and the Middletown community regarding environmental justice actions.
    • Supporting, publicizing, and attending intersectional meetings, workshops, and events run by BIPOC and FGLI students, faculty, and staff.
    • Collaborating with the Resource Center to find shared opportunity for action between students interested in environmental issues and social issues.
    • Committing to advocate for racial justice on campus and in the community.
  • Educate the Wesleyan community about the interdependence of racial and environmental justice through:
    • Improving education on the relationship between environmental justice and the oppression of indigenous Americans by integrating a land acknowledgement at all office-sponsored campus events.
    • Increasing an explicit focus on intersectionality and environmental justice in all continuing Sustainability Office events and programs.
    • Advocating for the hiring of an environmental justice-focused professor, the creation of environmental justice-focused courses, and the continued expansion of the Environmental Justice & Sustainability Course Cluster. 
    • Adding new events, programs, and discussions to explore intersectionality and antiracism in deeper ways.
    • Hosting and supporting events which explore the historic ties between environmentalism and white supremacy.
  • Dismantle current and historic barriers that exclude marginalized communities, uphold white supremacy, and make the sustainability movement predominantly white through:
    • Addressing instances of past or present harm done by/through the office’s action or inaction by taking responsibility and restorative action to acknowledge and repair the harm that has occurred.
    • Soliciting anonymous feedback from past and present interns in the Sustainability Office as well as Resource Center Sustainability & Spirituality Interns to learn what the Office needs to do to better support BIPOC and intersectionality.
    • Updating the Office mission statement to align with this commitment.
    • Revisiting all student intern and Sustainability Director job descriptions to remove biased language and integrate antiracist language into all postings.
    • When hiring new students in the office, continuing to conduct outreach to identity groups and through the Resource Center, as well as through expanded outreach to explicitly invite Black and brown students to be a part of the Sustainability Office in order to combat implicit messaging and biases that lead to a disproportionately white Sustainability Office.
    • Integrating environmental and racial justice into Wesleyan’s sustainability plans.
    • Reviewing, improving upon, and expanding the Antiracism & Intersectionality Commitment each year.