In a way, I had to become an environmentalist. My parents met while trekking Mount Ode, a popular getaway for a few hours by train from Seoul, South Korea. Growing up in Georgia, we probably never went for more than a month or two without spending a day exploring some hiking spot.
I didn’t always love mosquitoes or the heat of Georgia, but eventually learned to tolerate both in exchange for the rustle of leaves and the feeling of lightness that carries you among the trees.
And at home, I learned to “reduce, reuse, recycle” from my mom. When she wasn’t reminding me not to leave the tap on or throw away food, she was coming up with ways to repurpose or reuse everything she could.
My story is a familiar one: Asian Americans are extreme environmentalists. According to a survey last year, 80% of Asian Americans consider the environment a very or very important political issue; 77% support stronger federal legislation to tackle the climate crisis.
One pre survey We found that 86 percent of us agree that taking action on climate change now will lead to a better life for our children and grandchildren.
So why are we not represented in the environmental movement?
an unseen community
Significantly, people of color have long been excluded from environmentalism.
From the outset, environmental groups and under-representation of people of color in their boards have led to preferences that reflect white, wealthy people – even at the expense of everyone else.
It gives me hope that things are starting to change. Many green groups, wrestling with their own disparate roots, have begun to build bridges with communities of color and center environmental justice in their work. But throughout all of this, Asian American communities are still largely neglected.
Why? We can start by examining the fact that a lot of polling on climate and environmental issues ignores Asian Americans. Instead, we are often combined with other groups – including Native Americans and multiracial peoples – into a monolithic and ambiguous “other”.
This tendency to ignore and debunk Asian Americans illustrates how the “model minority myth”—which tells the story of a racial minority who has already achieved economic and social success through good manners and hard work—is our Works silently to shape reality.
Building a more inclusive movement
although it is easy prove false, the myth lives on. Our subsequent exclusion from critical studies and elections is disastrous, as this research helps shape both public policy and the public narrative.
The effect of the model minority myth also literally makes people sick and harm. Because of the misconception that all Asian Americans are prosperous, we have historically been undervalued and excluded from environmental justice research and the environmental justice movement.
The research that is available makes it clear that issues of environmental justice – including access to clean air and water – are Asian American issues as well. For example, a 2017 Study It was found that Asian Americans rank just below black people in the US and above Hispanics in terms of cancer risk from hazardous air pollutants.
And when we expand the conversation to include the US territories of the Pacific Islands, you don’t need studies to look at the effects of environmental injustice. Having survived colonialism and military occupation, islands like Guam are now at the forefront of the climate crisis and face a real existential threat in rising sea levels.
The environmental movement must recognize that Asian American and Pacific Islander – or AAPI – communities are valuable and necessary allies in the fight to tackle the climate crisis, allies who can harness such political power as the key to environmental progress. .
And it needs to be included in our efforts to correct the historical culpability of environmental injustice.
We can start by making sure that AAPIs are no longer eroded in relevant research and polling. Unless we lack sufficient and reliable data, we will remain ignorant of the actual size and shape of the problem as well as possible solutions.
And we can make sure to meet people where they are. About 60% were Asian American born in another country.
This means that issues of language, culture and citizenship are real barriers to civic participation – 34% of AAPI people have them. limited english proficiency. This should be considered when organizing events, creating booklets and flyers, or setting up meetings.
We can – and should – do better
In recent months, a lot of digital ink has been spilled on the plight of Asian Americans. The way we face many challenges on a daily basis – yet overlooked by the general public – has made me very happy.
In the environmental movement, our increasing focus on equality and environmental justice has also given me hope. Now, it is time to open our eyes to the millions of AAPIs like me who have been taught to appreciate and live in harmony with nature, who believe that it is imperative that we fight the climate crisis right now to build a better future. Take action on
To achieve real and inclusive progress in the time we have, we need to welcome the AAPI community to the environmental movement today.
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