Path to Zero
Path to Zero
1.03 - Environmental Justice Part 2: Where the movement stands now in the age of COVID-19 and BLM

In the second of a two-part series on environmental justice, Tucker Perkins speaks with author and department chair of environmental studies at University of California in Santa Barbara, Dr. David Pellow, about the difficulty of reaching environmental sustainability in areas with marginalized populations.

Dr. David Pellow is the director of the Global Environmental Justice Project—an initiative that leads research, education, service, and action within the global environmental justice movement at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Dr. Pellow and Tucker discuss the connection of environmental justice and a low carbon future.

Show Notes

A Tennessee native, Dr. Pellow credits the beginning of his passion for environmental studies to his family and his outdoor experiences at a young age. In his most recent project, a book titled “Keywords for Environmental Studies”, Dr. Pellow and a few colleagues discuss the history and evolution of 60 key terms from the environmental studies field.

In the mist of environmental unsustainability, racial unrest and COVID-19, Dr. Pellow explains the concept of hyper individualism and the need to replace this with an interdependence framework. Through this, there would be a better understanding of how people relate to one another, how we relate to earth and how to create effective environmental policy.

Dr. Pellow broke down the components of a sustainable community into three parts; technology, equity and justice. Developments of energy technology and innovations, does not exist without equity and justice implications. The correlation between justice and environmental sustainability enforces the need to reflect on the full range of impacts an environmental change has on various populations.

At a national level, the correlation between environmental sustainability and justice is visible with how the obstacles faced by indigenous groups due to extraction has shaped the discussion of pipeline shutdowns. For a local level example, we looked at how the West Harlem Environmental Action Group (WE ACT), conducted research on the negative impacts of pollution caused by diesel school buses on people’s respiratory health. WE ACT presented the findings to the City of New York, leading to a replacement of diesel buses with buses that run on more clean burning fuel.

Where does the environmental justice movement stand now? Taking a closer look, it is clear that the current movement is diverse, not afraid to point out issues and hold leadership accountable for change. These are just a few characteristics that differentiate this younger generation involved in advocating for environmental justice from earlier generations.


  • Dr. David Pellow: The University of California, Santa Barbara Environmental Studies Program
  • Reimagine: Breathe At Your Own Risk: Transit Justice in West Harlem
  • NYU Press: Keywords for Environmental Studies
  • Amazon: Other books by David Pellow