20 Books to Expand Your Intersectional Environmentalism

Social Justice Is Climate Justice is Racial Justice

Environmental Justice

Environmental justice is deeply rooted and intertwined with social justice, racial justice, and climate justice. It is paramount that we listen to and learn from the voices at the center of these issues. White voices have been outspoken for far too long and credited for environmental efforts. We see white faces on television shows, in movies, directing documentaries, on bestseller lists, starting businesses, teaching, and being praised for their role in the environmental movement, but we must elevate, celebrate, and amplify Black voices and Indigenous voices who have been at the heart of this movement all along. It is important to educate on the injustices in the outdoors and acknowledge the sacrifice zones that exist in our most vulnerable communities so that we can become better stewards of our planet, better allies, and better accomplices.

Communities of color have been marginalized and continue to pay the price for America to have energy at the flip of a switch. Big Oil has been drilling in underrepresented neighborhoods for decades because predominantly white communities don’t want the dangerous, harmful, cancerous, unsightly projects near their homes. Why would ANYONE? Why does the color of your skin get to decide that you are able to live a safe distance away from a dangerous oil refinery, a pit of waste runoff, or a fracking site? The answer: White Privilege. And the name for it: Environmental Racism.

We cannot fight for environmental justice and clean air, water, and land without acknowledging and actively lifting up these communities who need support because their own voices haven’t been enough and because their health, welfare, and best interests are not equally represented. Communities cannot be left out of the equation because of varying demographics especially when they are already battling to have basic resources like clean air and water on top of generations of oppression and discrimination.

Climate change does not discriminate. Our entire population is feeling and will continue to feel the effects of global warming and the chaos that will ensue. But, our communities who will feel it most are still battling systemic racism in addition to climate justice. Standing for our planet means standing for our people which means using our voices…

  • to demand change and reform
  • to VOTE out corrupt and racist leaders
  • to support clean and safe projects to benefit everyone
  • to support businesses who use their privilege and platforms for the sustainable and equitable good
  • to sign petitions and write to your representatives
  • to put pressure on brands you respect
  • to donate when you can
  • to divest from fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy
  • to stop making assumptions
  • to buy from and support Black-owned and operated businesses/farmers/artists/authors
  • to protest unfair conditions
  • to mourn and show empathy
  • to pay it forward
  • to read and educate yourself
  • to actively be anti-racist
  • to work to make the outdoors a safe place for all
  • to LEARN
  • to INCLUDE
  • to SUPPORT
  • to LISTEN

Whether you are looking to expand your knowledge on environmental racism, support BIPOC authors, continue the necessary work of antiracism, learn about distant and recent history of discrimination, or listen to / amplify melanated stories in regards to the outdoors and climate crisis movement you will find something on this list to digest.

Books to Add to Your Intersectional Reading List ASAP:

All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Katharine K. Wilkinson, and other guests creators

Engage, Connect, Protect: Empowering Diverse Youth as Environmental Leaders by Angelou Ezeilo and Nick Chiles

Planet Walker; 12 Years of Silence, 22 Years of Walking by John Francis, PhD

Black Faces, White Spaces; Reimagining the Relationships of African Americans to the Great Outdoors by Carolyn Finney

Odyssey in Climate Modeling, Global Warming, and Advising Five Presidents by Warren M. Washington

Farming While Black; Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land by Leah Penniman

Confronting Environmental Racism: Voices From the Grassroots by Robert D. Bullard

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

Rooted in the Earth – Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage by Dianne D. Glave

Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape by Lauret Savoy

Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility by Dorceta Taylor

Birding for Everyone; Encouraging People of Color to Become Birdwatchers by John C. Robinson

The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom

A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind by Harriet A. Washington

The Compton Cowboys; The New Generation of Cowboys in America’s Urban Heartland by Walter Thompson-Hernández

A Negro Explorer at the North Pole by Matthew A. Henson

The Rise of the American Conservation Movement: Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection by Dorceta Taylor

The Adventure Gap – Changing the Face of the Outdoors by James Edward Mills

Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the National Parks by Mark David Spence

Pleasure Activism: the Politics of Feeling Good by Adrienne Maree Brown

To increase positive community impact and decrease negative planetary impact we recommend:

  • suggesting these reads to your friends, families, coworkers to start important conversations
  • buying directly from the author or supporting local/Black-owned bookstores when purchasing these titles and other books
  • finding books at your local library or encouraging that they carry them if they don’t already
  • sharing your copy of these books so that others can read them / starting a communal bookshelf in your break room at work
  • finding e-book versions to minimize shipping and production/paper waste
  • checking out local thrift stores/secondhand bookstores to support a more cyclical option instead of buying new
  • starting a Tiny Library or adding to an existing one in your neighborhood to support book exchanging
  • gifting books on this list or from other BIPOC authors for holiday/birthday presents
  • creating a book swap with friends or relatives to share books once you’ve read them and to get access to new reads

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