During a special event held in The Bullard Center at Texas Southern University (TSU), People over Plastic hosted a live podcast session that discussed community-based solutions to reduce petrochemical pollution and uplift environmental justice.
People over Plastic’s environmental journalist Alexis Young was joined by Dr. Denae W. King, the associate director at The Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice and Michael McKenzie, a regional organizer for Gulf South for a Green New Deal and Taproot Earth. Our guest host HBCU Liaison for Environmental Defense Fund Ryan Jeter helped PoP staff welcome keynote speaker and People Over Plastic Co-founder Patrice Simms.
Simms’ additional role as VP of Litigation at Earthjustice is the latest in an environmental justice, law and policy career that has spanned over 15 years. The environmental litigator focused his portion of the podcast episode on providing cultural and historical context on how crucial community-based solutions are in advancing environmental justice and reducing harmful petrochemical pollution.
“The discussions that are happening today are incredibly important,” Simms stated, “they’re layered on top of, they’re built on top of a long history.”
“A history that if we don’t understand and we don’t appreciate and we don’t pay attention to we are likely to repeat or certainly going to have a very difficult time undoing.”
The undoing would be the impact of the petrochemical industry’s “oversized role in creating environmental hazards, in creating disproportionate environmental hazards,” as Simms puts it.
Simms purports that environmental injustices are not accidental but the intentional manifestation of segregation, redlining and expulsive rezoning to “concentrate harm” in communities of color and also poor communities.
“It [environmental injustice] is a product of the creation and implementation and persistence of regulatory regimes sanctioned by state and federal authorities that bake in structural racism.”
Dr. Denae King, with The Bullard Center, came to a similar conclusion while earning her chemistry degree at TSU during undergrad. After working at Fina Oil & Chemical for one summer, Dr. King said she knew something wasn’t right about the white film that would have coated her car by the time her shift was over. Subsequently pursuing a masters and doctoral degree in environmental toxicology after her summer gig at Fina, Dr. King took her work as a bench scientist in molecular toxicology to the community.