Home ยป Asian American Environmental Justice: Why It Matters and How to Achieve
Asian American Environmental Justice
Asian American Environmental Justice
Environmental Justice

Asian American Environmental Justice: Why It Matters and How to Achieve

It As an Asian American environmentalist, I have often felt overlooked and ignored by the mainstream environmental movement.

Despite the fact that Asian Americans are overwhelmingly concerned about the environment and climate change, we are rarely represented in environmental groups, media, or policy.

This is not only unfair but also detrimental to the cause of environmental justice, which seeks to address the disproportionate impacts of environmental problems on marginalized communities.

Asian American Environmental Justice
Asian American Environmental Justice

In this article, I will explore why Asian American environmental justice matters, and how we can achieve it.

What is environmental justice?

Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

Environmental justice recognizes that environmental issues are not only ecological, but also social, political, and economic.

Environmental justice advocates for the rights of communities that are most affected by environmental degradation, pollution, and climate change, such as low-income communities, communities of color, indigenous communities, and immigrant communities.

Why is environmental justice important for Asian Americans?

Asian Americans in the U.S. are a diverse and growing community, making up approximately 6% of the total population.

They exhibit a rich tapestry of histories, cultures, languages, religions, and socioeconomic statuses.

Some have deep roots in the U.S., while others are recent arrivals or refugees, and their locations span urban, rural, and island settings.

These distinctions significantly influence how they perceive and encounter environmental issues.

A 2017 study by the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) found that Asian Americans rank just below Black individuals and above Hispanic individuals in the U.S. concerning cancer risk from hazardous air pollutants.

They also confront other environmental challenges, encompassing limited access to clean water, healthy food, green spaces, public transportation, exposure to toxic substances, and vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change impacts.

Unfortunately, these environmental issues often remain invisible or overlooked by mainstream environmental organizations and media.

Asian Americans are seldom integrated into environmental research, data collection, policy formulation, or advocacy efforts.

Furthermore, they contend with stereotypes that portray them either as model minorities or perpetual foreigners, hindering their representation and participation in environmental decision-making.

How can we achieve Asian American environmental justice?

To achieve Asian American environmental justice, we need to challenge the existing structures and systems that create and maintain environmental inequalities.

We need to amplify the voices and stories of Asian American communities that are most affected by environmental issues.

We need to build coalitions and solidarity with other communities of color and social movements that share our vision of a more just and sustainable world.

We need to demand accountability and transparency from governments and corporations that are responsible for environmental harm.

We need to support grassroots organizations and leaders who are working on the ground to address environmental problems and empower their communities.

Some examples of Asian American environmental justice activists and organizations that are doing this work include:

  • Varshini Prakash: Varshini Prakash is the co-founder and executive director of the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led organization dedicated to advocating for a Green New Deal to combat climate change and create millions of green jobs.
  • Kristy Drutman: Kristy Drutman is the founder of Brown Girl Green, a platform encompassing a podcast and more that explores the connections between race, gender, and the environment.
  • Andrea Chu: Andrea Chu serves as the Midwest organizing manager at Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago, an organization actively involved in addressing issues like immigrant rights, voting rights, census participation, and environmental justice.
  • Leah Song: Leah Song is one of the co-founders of Rising Tide North America, a network of grassroots organizations that employ direct action strategies to confront the fundamental causes of climate change.
  • Miya Yoshitani: Miya Yoshitani holds the position of executive director at APEN, an organization that collaborates with low-income Asian immigrant and refugee communities in California to address issues such as clean energy, affordable housing, public health, and civic engagement.

READ ALSO: The A. Donald McEachin Environmental Justice For All Act: Combating Environmental Injustice in the US


Asian American environmental justice is a vital and urgent issue that deserves more attention and action.

As Asian Americans, we have a unique perspective and contribution to offer to the environmental movement. We have a rich history of resistance and resilience against oppression and exploitation.

We have a diverse culture and heritage that values harmony with nature and community.

We have a stake in the future of our planet and our people.

We have a responsibility to stand up for our rights and our environment. We have the power to make a difference.

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