Us and Them: A Personal Take on Environmental Justice from the Perspective of Everyday Life

It’s funny the things that seem to stick in your mind. I remember a short conversation I once had back in the mid-1990s, at a University Fresher’s Fayre, an event where all the various clubs and societies try to encourage you to sign-up. I was stopped by an over-keen representative of a particular student political society, and he asked what causes and issues I felt strongly about. Answering that I was studying Environmental Science, he replied “The Environment is just like living in a shared student house – no one likes living in dirty home, and no one likes having to tidy up someone else’s mess”.
I clearly remember feeling a little ‘put-out’ that he was deliberately over-simplifying what I thought was a much more complicated subject – I was about to start studying my Environmental Science Masters course after all! But now, twenty years later, I think he actually put it rather well.
He’d made a link that I hadn’t back then; that issues of ‘the Environment’ aren’t just about the what, where, how and why, but also who – who is responsible for damaging and depleting the environment and who is suffering because of it ? In other words, it’s not only about how messy the house has become and how much food is left, but also about who made the mess, who has to live in it and clean it up, and who’s been raiding the fridge.

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