Sustainability and Social Justice

Not everyone realizes that sustainability is an issue of social justice. Because sustainability has become something of a cause du jour, some people think it is trivial.

However, the links between sustainability and social justice are growing ever clearer; environmental catastrophes disproportionately affect poor people in undeveloped regions, deforestation and desertification make access to resources even more difficult for those already in need at the same time as they create barriers to gender equality, and conflict over quickly disappearing resources is an undeniable cause of violence and war.

As part of Bryn Mawr’s holistic, thoughtful approach to becoming sustainable, we think it is important to emphasize the connections between sustainability and social justice. This is especially relevant since Bryn Mawr is known for being a socially responsible institution; in order to maintain that reputation, we must continue exploring this relationship and strengthen our commitment to sustainability.

Below are some articles that relate sustainability and social justice.

From the UN Environment Programme
, Rio Declaration of Environment and Development:

Principle 20

Women have a vital role in environmental management and development. Their full participation is therefore essential to achieve sustainable development.

Principle 21

The creativity, ideals and courage of the youth of the world should be mobilized to forge a global partnership in order to achieve sustainable development and ensure a better future for all.

Principle 22

Indigenous people and their communities and other local communities have a vital role in environmental management and development because of their knowledge and traditional practices. States should recognize and duly support their identity, culture and interests and enable their effective participation in the achievement of sustainable development.


From the World Bank Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network, Poverty Impacts of Climate Change:

Over the last century, the world has seen a sustained decline in the proportion of people living in poverty. However, there is an increasing concern that climate change could slow or possibly even reverse poverty reduction progress. Given the complexities involved in analyzing climate change impacts on poverty, different approaches can be helpful; this note surveys the results of recent research on climate change impacts on poverty.


The Environmental Justice Resource Center: EJRC

The Environmental Justice Resource Center (EJRC) at Clark Atlanta University was formed in 1994 to serve as a research, policy, and information clearinghouse on issues related to environmental justice, race and the environment, civil rights and human rights, facility siting, land use planning, brownfields, transportation equity, suburban sprawl and smart growth, energy, global climate change, and climate justice. The overall goal of the center is to assist, support, train, and educate people of color students, professionals, and grassroots community leaders with the goal of facilitating their inclusion into the mainstream of decision-making. The center is multi-disciplinary in its focus and approach. It serves as a bridge among the social and behavioral sciences, health professionals, natural and physical sciences, engineering, management, and legal disciplines to prevent and solve environmental and health problems. The center’s programs build on the work that it staff has been engaged in for over two decades.


Center for Race, Poverty, and the Environment: Climate Justice Campaign

Goal:  Low-income communities and communities of color disproportionately suffer from the effects of global warming, and not surprisingly, the effects of policy decisions to address global warming.  The Climate Justice Campaign uses CRPE’s unique blend of community organizing and litigation to address the dual threats that low-income communities face.


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