Of Land and Culture

Environmental Justice and Public Lands Ranching
in Northern New Mexico

By Ernest Atencio

Northern NMDuring the last decade of the twentieth century, the environmental movement was forced to recognize the fact that people of color and the poor have been left out ofthe dialogue about environmental issues and often fall through the cracks of environmental regulations. While we were busy worrying about the pressing problems of dwindling wild lands, dammed, over-appropriated and polluted rivers, and biodiversity, poor people got poorer and continued to bear the brunt of toxic industry. Certain environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, responded commendably by broadening their approach to at least consider environmental justice issues. But some people and some issues continue to fall throughout he cracks.

Public health impacts from environmental conditions or hazardous waste, or discrimination in the implemental policies are unquestionably critical problems, but environmental justice is about more than that. It is also about widening the discourse on environmental issues to include the perspectives, values, and concerns of the usually ignored populations of peole of color and the poor. Ben Chavis, one of the original movers and shakers of the environmental justice movement … said, “Environmental racism is [among other things] the history of excluding people of color from the leadership of the environmental movement.”

Though written in 2001, much of this report is still very current.  Download and read the full report produced by The Quivira Coalition and the Northern New Mexico Group of the Sierra Club.

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