What is environmental racism and what can we do about it?

Speaking at the first Inclusion in Action Speaker Series event of 2023-24, Dr. Ingrid Waldron explored how environmental racism puts Indigenous, Black, and other racialized communities at greater risk of exposure to health hazards and climate disasters, and how individuals and organizations can work to address these inequities. Now available to view online, the virtual event was organized by the Institutional Equity Office and U of T Mississauga’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Office, and welcomed students, faculty, librarians, and staff from across the tri-campus.

Dr. Waldron is a Professor and HOPE Chair in Peace and Health in the Global Peace and Social Justice program at McMaster University, and author of There’s Something in the Water: Environmental Racism in Indigenous & Black Communities, which inspired Elliot Page’s 2020 documentary of the same name.

In her talk, she shared Canadian examples of how hazardous waste sites and other environmental pollutants are often placed near Indigenous, Black, and otherwise marginalized communities – particularly those in isolated, rural areas – where people lack the political power to have them removed or cleaned up. She went on to discuss her efforts to raise public awareness and understanding of environmental racism through the Environmental Noxiousness, Racial Inequities and Community Health Project (The ENRICH Project), the Canadian Coalition for Environmental and Climate Justice (CCECJ), and other initiatives.

“If people don’t understand a topic, they’re not going to take action on it,” Dr. Waldron said, sharing that she’s tried to connect with communities in a broad variety of ways, ranging from workshops and symposiums to film screenings and art events.

Ingrid Waldron

“In Canada, there’s a hesitance to talk about systemic racism, [so] the subtleties of environmental racism are hard to understand at first,” she said. “The solution needs to be interdisciplinary and intersectional.” She added that when you help people see the connections between environmental issues and topics such as race, class, and colonialism, they begin to recognize how the issues are relevant to their lives.

You can watch the recording of “Centering Justice and Human Rights in What We Say and Do About Environmental Racism and Climate Change Inequities” with Dr. Ingrid Waldron using the video player below.