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Environmental Justice and Social Action

The Pennsylvania state standard 8.1.12 states that students are to learn how to evaluate cause and effect by analyzing continuity and change in a variety of facets of history, one of which is the environment. However, there are rarely units that cover ways in which students can become real-world advocates for environmental social justice, to the point of having their own effects on history. My unit will address the issues of defining environmental justice, understanding the historical and political context of environmental justice, analyzing its effects so far on urban populations, and teaching students to learn how to become advocates for social change.

At the end of the unit, students will reflect on what environmental racism means in terms of its role in a progressive civil rights movement. Students will discuss whether or not the whole concept of “environmental racism,” is an issue to be focused on at all, or if it’s actually counterproductive in society. Students will analyze both perspectives on the issue and try to determine what they think is the most relevant to them—should society focus only on poverty and race, or should the environment also play a key role in promoting justice?

Leslie Petruzzi
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