U.N. Special Rapporteur on Toxics and Human Rights and Environmental Justice Historian to Speak at Forum, October 24
(Beyond Pesticides, October 19, 2023) The second session of the 40th National Forum, Forging a Future with Nature, will focus on environmental justice and offer a unique conversation with the United Nations Rapporteur on Toxics and Human Rights and an environmental justice history professional. Both celebrated speakers have studied and written about the long-standing social, economic, and health problems related to pesticides and disproportionate harm to people of color. The Forum will take place at 2:00 pm EDT on Tuesday, October 24, 2023. (See free registration information HERE.)Â Â
Beyond Pesticides brings together this Forum session with the inspiration of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who wrote in Letter from a Birmingham Jail (1963), âInjustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.â Sixty years later, people of colorâin the U.S. and around the worldâstill struggle with those same inequities that impose disproportionate risks interwoven in the fabric of economic and social systems in the United States and worldwide.
The Forum takes place in the context of widespread toxic chemical exposure throughout communities and all strata of society, but with the recognition that there is disproportionate harm in society to people of color from high-risk occupational exposures (e.g., farmworkers, landscapers, chemical manufacturing), chemical manufacturersâ emissions in fenceline communities, pesticide drift in agricultural communities, and toxic exposure to essential workers, and those with preexisting and multigenerational illness.Â
Marcos Orellana, PhD
Marcos Orellana, PhD, the Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights, addressed the toxic legacy of severely contaminated indigenous sites at the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (1992), saying, âHighly hazardous pesticides sprayed by the agro-industrial complex and irresponsible Governments. . . .reflect the alienation between humanity and nature.âÂ Dr. Orellana draws attention to the fact that âtoxins are a form of violence against the land and its people,â contrary to the âhuman right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment,â which serves as a guiding principle for the United Nations Human Rights Council. Dr. Orellanaâs engagement around the world captures critical truths that are challenges across the globe, such as his statement after a visit to South Africa in September. Dr. Orellana said, âThe term âenvironmental racismâ describes institutionalized discrimination based on race or colour. . . Overcoming it will require significant additional efforts, including structural, legislative, economic, and environmental changes.âÂ Â
Jayson Maurice Porter, PhD
Dr. Porter wrote in Agrochemicals, Environmental Racism, and Environmental Justice in U.S. History (2022), âRobert Bullard defines environmental racism as any policy or practice that unequally affects or disadvantages individuals, groups or communities based on their race. Vann Newkirk II adds that environmental racism is the opposite of environmental justice and often ignores or belittles input from the affected communities of color.â In âCotton, Whiteness, and Poisonsâ (Environmental Humanities, Nov. 2022), coauthor Dr. Porter writes about a U.S. history of âlabor exploitation conditioned by racist ideologiesâ underpinning plantation agriculture. In recognition that dependency on pesticides and fertilizers undermines the economic stability of small farmers, the authors write, âAt the Tuskegee Instituteâs agricultural experiment station, George Washington Carver recognized that commercial fertilizers were a key source of debt for Black farmers and tenants. He encouraged composting and the use of organic fertilizers found on the farm, writing that ‘many thousands of dollars are being spent every year here in the South for fertilizers that profit the user very little, while Natureâs choicest fertilizer is going to waste.’âÂ
For more information, click here to access the speakersâ bios and to access resources for the second session of the Forum, including a link to Beyond Pesticidesâ coverage of a report by Dr. Porter, âHighlighting the Connection Environmental Racism and the Agricultural Industry Through History.â
In the U.S., environmental justice has been embraced by the White House Environmental Justice Advisory CouncilâŻand the Justice 40 Initiative, addressing challenges aligned with climate change, legacy pollution, clean water, and wastewater infrastructure. In addition, EPA established a new Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil RightsÂ last year, tasked with âelevating equity concerns to higher levels within the agency.âÂ
Beyond Pesticidesâ 42-year history exemplifies educating activists, educators, policymakers, and the general public on the environmental and equity problems associated with dependency on petrochemical pesticides and fertilizersâit is the role of the National Forum Series to magnify voices with the knowledge and agency to advance solutionsâor alternative strategiesâin the form of changes in practices and policies. Having witnessed attempts to establish risk reduction measures that allow continued and disproportionate harm, Beyond Pesticides through its program advances the elimination of petrochemical pesticides and fertilizers by 2032 and a shift to organic management of land and the built environment. Beyond Pesticidesâ community-based programs show these toxic materials are not necessary for productivity, profitability, and quality of life.
During the first Forum seminar on September 14, internationally renowned researcher and author David Goulson, PhD, professor of biology at the University of Sussex, described the vital role of nature in our collective survivalâcontributing to the web of life that sustains the rich diversity needed for a healthy planetâwhile countering the myth of pesticide use as unnecessary in our gardens and urban spaces. AndrĂ© Leu, DSc, the international director of Regeneration International, in turn, offered a strategy by articulating the need for clearly defined and enforceable regenerative, organic land management systems that are critical to meet the challenges of our time, lest we fall victim to empty words and promises that do not advance the urgent changes our livable future requires. Check out the powerfully thought-provoking recording of Dave Goulson, PhD, and AndrĂ© Leu, DSc.,Â now available on the Beyond Pesticides website!
A future supported by the natural environment depends on our collective involvement in decisions in our homes, communities, states, and at the federal level to ensure that we are taking the steps necessary to protect against existential threats to health, biodiversity, and climate. You are part of the solutionâJoin the conversation and register TODAY!
Registration is Complimentary: Donations are requested, but not required. Your registration includes access to all three seminars for the fall!
Reach, Influence, SupportâWe thank our members, supporters, and the following companies for sponsoring Beyond Pesticidesâ 40th National Forum Series to bring agents of changeâscientists, policymakers, educators, practitioners, advocates, and activistsâto elevate the threats and alternative strategies urgently needed to address environmental decline and collapse.Â
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.