Dec 2, 2009

We may have come over in different ships, but we are all in the same boat now

Martin Luther King said it. Last month we started a conversation “There is no Sustainability without Social Justice, there is no Social Justice without Sustainability.”

Sustainable Seattle was invited to attend Seattle Public Utilities meeting Working with Immigrants and Refugees on December 2nd. We attended to learn how SPU is working to address the issues of underserved communities, and to gather information and tools for S2. Below are notes from the meeting:

Check this out:

  • Seattle’s population has increased by 42% between 1990-2006
  • 70% of that growth is people of color, immigrants and refugees
  • 50% of that growth is foreign born peoples
  • Black African Americans populations have increased 60% in Seattle
  • Hispanic populations have increased by 150% in Seattle
  • Two or more race individuals have increased by 160% in Seattle
  • 1 in 8 US residents is an immigrant
  • 75% of all US citizens are children of immigrants.

Barriers to equity include language, cultural norms, fear and distrust of government & service providers, past trauma, fear of biased and unfair and oppressive treatment, and complexity of systems from getting services to green cards or citizenship. (Check this out to get a flavor of the complexity )

We are all in the same boat. The United Nation’s Brundtland Commission’s report “Our Common Future,” a seminal report that accessed the boat – our planet and its social, environmental, and economic systems – put out a call for global and local action for sustainable development so that we can meet the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. The linkage between social justice and sustainability is clear in this report, issued in 1983, and remains today.

So- what do we need to do? How do we contribute to social justice in personal and professional lives and in our community?

Some paths:

Raise the issue

  • Ask the tough questions, start and continue the conversation. Structured violence, defined by Johan Galtung, a founder of the International Peace Research Institute, described structured violence as “a form of violence which corresponds with the systematic ways in which a given social structure or social institution kills people slowing by preventing them from meeting their basic needs. Institutional elitism, ethnocentrism, classism, racism, sexism, adultism, nationalism, heterosexualism, and ageism are just some examples of structured violence.”
  • Listen, when you have an opportunity, to the stories and issues faced by people of color, immigrant community members and refugees.
  • One resource: Washington Community Action Network worksheet
  • Come to a free session on Race and Inclusion Sustainable Seattle will be hosting in February 2010 (stay tuned!)

Address the issue by taking action

  • Gather education and tools for contributing to social justice. From learning how to say hello in one of our immigrant community languages; learning an immigrant community traditions and cultures; to expanding capacity within your home, your work place and your community for social justice.
  • What about your neighborhood? Click here for information from the City of Seattle Dept. of Neighborhoods and our nearly completed work that is part of our NABRS projects,
  • Check out Seattle Office of Civil Rights for a civil rights community report.
  • Put in place protections and policies in your organization so you contribute to social justice and shed light on processes and products or services your organization provides that may unintentionally create barriers to social justice and sustainability.. One resource: Inclusive Outreach and Public Engagement Guide issued by the Race & Social justice Initiative, Seattle Office for Civil Rights, Request it by clicking here.
And, as always, stay informed.

  • Check out the article on contributions to the economy from One America.
  • Look for bills in the House and Senate for Immigration Reform in the coming year
  • Stay educated! Create positive feedback loops by raising the issue!

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you guys made this post. Social justice is HUGELY connected to sustainability (environmental justice issues). Thank you bringing awareness of this, and all the work being done to help this aspect, to your readership.