A new (and free!) e-book from Island Press highlights opportunities for action in an era of change
In 2021, all good news comes with an asterisk.
American democracy survived an unprecedented assault on January 6, but the nation is more bitterly polarized than ever. Life-saving COVID vaccines were developed in record time, but a significant portion of the American public refused to receive the vaccine. The Biden administration took office promising to fight climate change and “build back better,” but progress has been thwarted by key lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
During this hopeful and frustrating year, contributors to the Island Press Urban Resilience Project celebrated our collective progress, while highlighting how far we still have to go.
For example, in “Good Jobs: The Unfinished Business of Environmental Justice,” Dr. Beverly Wright praised the Biden administration’s landmark Justice40 initiative, which directs 40% of federal investments to disadvantaged communities. To deliver on its promise, Dr. Wright argued, Justice40 must also include skills training and workforce development for those who have been left behind.
On environmental justice issues, there is a lot of unfinished business. To measure our progress, the Urban Resilience Project organized a virtual roundtable on the 30and anniversary of the first National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit. Participants included Summit veterans who have shaped the movement for decades, as well as young leaders on the front lines of current struggles. Participants celebrated the extraordinary achievements of the Summit, while acknowledging the persistent racial inequalities currently playing out in the climate crisis.
The new administration has brought a welcome change on environmental issues, with appointments and proposals aimed at tackling climate and other challenges. But here, too, there are asterisks: the fine print of legislation and its implementation can derail the best intentions. Our contributors have stepped into the breach, offering advice to the administration on a wide range of issues. For example, in “If You Build It, We Will Prosper,” Henry Cisneros and William Fulton called for targeted investments in infrastructure that advance economic and environmental goals. Albert George has urged FEMA to change the rules that are driving South Carolina’s Gullah-Geechee off their land. And David Coursen counted the dire environmental costs of stagnant EPA funding.
Looking at the fine print, our contributors have sometimes found a dark side to seemingly positive developments. In “Don’t Fall for the Hydrogen Hype”, Eddie Bautista and Lewis Milford observed that hydrogen is not the clean fuel its proponents claim it is. And Todd Litman took aim at pneumatic tube trains, self-driving vehicles and other forms of “new mobility”, saying low-tech options like public transit and bicycles are better for people and the environment.
In the wake of addressing racial injustice in 2020, 2021 has seen a welcome focus on diversity within the environmental movement. But, as Lois R. DeBacker and Jacqueline Patterson have argued, “the problem isn’t just diversity; it is access to money”. Because it neglects environmental justice groups, “most environmental philanthropy is not aligned with the greatest need or opportunity in our field,” DeBacker and Patterson wrote. Similarly, Peggy Shepard accused the Bezos Earth Fund of flouting environmental justice nonprofits; later in 2021, the Earth Fund announced substantial new support for EJ groups.
In a year of mixed good news, our contributors have made an unequivocal contribution to the public conversation. They read the fine print, highlighted overlooked issues, and spoke truth to power. Their stories and solutions have now been collected in a new e-book Resilience Matters: Opportunities for Action to Strengthen Communitiesavailable free online.
In these pages, they take full measure of the challenges we face. But they also offer visions of a fairer, greener future – without the asterisks.
Click HERE to view and download the Resilience matters Ebook.